How long has it been since you heard someone say, “My goal in life is to be humble?” We encourage our young people to be athletic, popular, smart, assertive and sexy, but not humble. Not only is humility seldom sought; it has sometimes even been spurned. The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, despised humility as a form of weakness.
Yet in Christian teaching, humility is prized as one of the highest virtues because it is opposed to pride, one of the seven deadly sins. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3-5).
Why is humility so important for the Christian?
1) Humility fosters community. While there is a proper pride in doing our work well, egotistical self-assertion leads to competitiveness that undermines our relationships. So Scripture says, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).
2) God is great and we are small. The God who spoke the universe into being is infinite in power and wisdom. It is only common sense to echo the wonder of the psalmist: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him” (Psalm 8:3-4)?
3) God is holy and we are sinful. God’s indictment of ancient Israel applies to each one of us. “Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him” (Isaiah 1:4). It is folly to pretend that we will be able to hold our heads up in pride before Him who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) and “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away” (Revelation 20:11).
4) Humility is necessary to receive divine forgiveness. God will not forgive people who refuse humbly to acknowledge their sins. As long as we hold on to our supposed goodness and worthiness, our hands are too full to accept the gift of mercy and grace God wants to give us. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Peter 5:5-6).
What kind of humility pleases God? We must—
· Acknowledge to Him that we have sinned and that we cannot save ourselves (Luke 18:10-14).
· Trust in Jesus Christ who died for sinners and rose again to lift them up to God (Romans 4:22-5:2).
· Forgive others “just as God in Christ also has forgiven” us (Ephesians 4:32).
· Reject envy and be glad for the success or good fortune of others (James 4:1-2, 7-10; Romans 12:15-16; 1 Corinthians 12:26).
· Serve others rather than demanding that they serve us (Mark 10:42-45).
This is the kind of life that is truly beautiful. May God grant us humble hearts.