Oscar-winners. Professional athletes. Recording artists. Oh, and of course—politicians. Remarks by men and women in each of these groups often have a common theme:
I am so humbled to have been chosen . . .
I’m truly humbled to be among the ranks of such a talented group . . .
I’m infinitely humbled that you would exercise your right to vote on my behalf . . .
We listen, and sometimes we even believe them a little. But on the inside, don’t we suspect that a more truthful translation of the sentiment behind those word is more like this?
I feel pretty stinkin’ proud to be standing before you today. I actually really deserve this honor and would have been completely affronted had you chosen someone else.
Of course, before we run too far down the Path of Blame and Shame, we should probably examine ourselves. Yesterday I had an experience at the office, which, had I not been preparing to write this post, I might have walked away from saying, “Wow. That was humbling.”
Instead, as I look back on the day, while I do believe that I was unjustly reprimanded, my inward response showed that I was far from humbled by my supervisor’s words and authority. Rather I walked away prideful. Emboldened. Embarrassed perhaps. But humbled? Uh, no.
There is a sense of fluidity in language. That is the understood meaning of a word and the way that everyday people apply it in speech or writing can change over time. Compare, for example, these two dictionary entries for the word “humble.” The first is from today’s dictionary.com, the second, from Webster’s Dictionary 1828—Online Edition.
humble—adjective, humbler, humblest.
- not proud or arrogant; modest:
to be humble although successful.
- having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.:
In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
- low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.; lowly:
of humble origin; a humble home.
- courteously respectful:
In my humble opinion you are wrong.
- low in height, level, etc.; small in size:
a humble member of the galaxy.
humble—adjective [Latin humilis.]
- Low; opposed to high or lofty.
Thy humble nest built on the ground.
- Low; opposed to lofty or great; mean; not magnificent; as a humble cottage.
A humble roof, and an obscure retreat.
- Lowly; modest; meek; submissive; opposed to proud, haughty, arrogant or assuming. In an evangelical sense, having a low opinion of one's self, and a deep sense of unworthiness in the sight of God.
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. James 4:1.
Without a humble imitation of the divine author of our blessed religion, we can never hope to be a happy nation.
The differences aren’t necessarily glaring, but there is a sense that in modern times we’ve backed off on the depth of the meaning of humility, and there has been a shift from seeing humble as a comparison of lowly man to holy God toward a comparison of one person to another.
So as we reflect on what it truly means to be humble, let’s spend a few moments looking at how the word is used in Scripture and what it might mean in a biblical sense. And just for grins, because I’m a recipe nut (and former Food Network addict . . . “former” only because we no longer have cable TV), why not look at the biblical meaning of “humble” through the lens of a recipe? Without further ado, here it is.
Humble Pie: How to Make It
Instruction in Wisdom (Prov. 15:33)
Fear of the Lord (Prov. 22:4)
Gentleness and Patience (Eph. 4:2)
Compassion, Kindness, and Meekness (Col. 2:12)
A Contrite Spirit (Isa. 66:2)
Understanding of Heart (Dan. 10:12)
Childlikeness (Matt. 18:4)
Gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1)
Repentance (2 Cor. 12:21)
Obedience (Phil. 2:8)
Before beginning, prepare your spirit with a generous coating of repentance. Neglecting this important step will result in great disappointment with your final product.
Add gentleness and patience, then mix thoroughly with compassion, kindness, and meekness.
Sift mixture, being careful to remove any of the following: haughtiness (Prov. 18:12; Ps. 18:27), selfish ambition and conceit (Phil. 2:3), pride (Job 22:29; Prov. 11:12), wickedness (Ps. 147:6), and loftiness (Isa. 2:11).
Add as much wisdom as you can get your hands on, as this will ensure that your methods are accurate (Ps. 25:9).
After the mixture is complete, dredge yourself in it (1 Peter 5:5), doing what you can to ensure that your fellow believers are covered as well. Be as gentle as possible with them, holding their needs above your own (Phil. 2:3).
Season well with justice and an additional sprinkle of kindness; now it’s time to walk (Mic. 6:8).
You will know you are on the path to success when you are contrite in spirit and tremble at His Word (Isa. 66:2).
Service is a delectable accompaniment to your humble pie (Acts 20:19).
Please note: You will need to make a fresh pie from scratch daily, and you will likely have many botched attempts. If you find yourself struggling and need further instruction, follow the example of the Master (Phil. 2:8). Happy humbling!
And Eat It, Too
Friends, true humility is not a quick and easy thing to learn. Just like my grandma’s pie crust (which I still can’t get to turn out after twenty years of homemaking), it will be a learning process for the rest of my life and yours. Thankfully, we have the Word as our guide, the Spirit as our Helper, and a loving Father who is quick to show us our sin and merciful to forgive it. Will you begin another attempt at making humble pie today?
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners (Ps. 69:30–33, emphasis added).