My husband thought that I was sitting down to write “the first chapter in a book about humility.”
“No way!” I said. “I’d have to be crazy to write a book about humility.”
I was joking-not-joking, because everyone knows that when you write a book about a godly virtue, God makes sure you know what you’re talking about first. He sifts and sanctifies you, wrestles and wrangles you, until your message is purified. Writing an entire book about humility is asking for trouble . . . if you know what I mean.
Even sitting down to write 1,000 words on the topic is problematic. I’m sure that while I’m writing this blog post, God will sift my pride. He’ll convict me and surprise me. I’ll wonder why I ever embarked on this project in the first place. But I must admit that I’m heartened to keep plowing ahead with this post anyway because I know that His purpose is to make me more like Jesus. Who could ask for more?
I’m hoping that as you read this, He’ll captivate, convict, and surprise you, too.
Let’s trust Him to teach us with absolute love and affection.
Longing to Be Humble
I’m not writing this post as a humility expert. I’m writing as a regular person who can be embarrassingly proud and self-focused. My interest in humility comes from poignant Scriptures like Proverbs 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5, and James 4:6 that all say:
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
I shudder to think about God Almighty opposing me, yet I must admit that my pride sets me up as God’s enemy. As the Creator and Ruler of the universe, God must resist me when I foolishly live according to my own will and worship myself.
Proverbs 16:18 warns that “pride goes before destruction.” When God resists the proud, He is saving them from danger; even His opposition is kind, alerting us of our grave sin.
I long to be included in the body of believers who are “humble,” the ones who receive unmerited grace from God—the grace that is able to help us to love Him and other people, overcome our struggles with sin, and to live for His glory. I want to be among the humble saints who bow before the Throne of Grace, hands open to God’s provision, protection, and smile.
Whenever humility is mentioned in Scripture, the Holy Spirit uses it to shake us out of our everyday selfishness and to remind us that there is a God in heaven, abounding in grace, who deserves our worship.
So humble yourself!
A bird’s eye view of humility throughout Scripture reveals that we are to choose humility, put humility on like clothing, and intentionally humble ourselves. Consider this sampling of verses that command us to be humble:
- "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
- "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12).
- "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Eph. 4:2 NIV).
- "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you" (James 4:10).
Over and over again throughout Scripture, we are told to intentionally, proactively humble ourselves. Of course, we rely on God for the faith to humble ourselves, but these Scriptures seem to imply that we can take ourselves by the collar and pull ourselves to our knees or look at our prideful selves in the mirror and intentionally cover over our shameful haughtiness with humility. Perhaps Scripture gives us these directives because in order to be humble, we have to recognize that we’re not humble and respond appropriately to that fact.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.
God Is God and I Am Not
As Lewis so aptly writes, we must acknowledge that we are proud and conceited. This is the first step, but we cannot stop here. If we simply continue in our self-admitted pride, we are not yet humble: we’re just “proud and we know it.” We have not yet seen our pride in light of Christ’s perfection.
Hear what God says about Himself:
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps. 46:10).
“My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:11).
The next vital step in becoming humble is acknowledging that God is God and we are not. God gives us faith as we hear His Word and consider His mighty works, His character, and His will. We must see God for who He truly is. Then, and only then, will we be repulsed by our pride and humiliated by our self-consumed sinful nature.
In the gleaming light of God’s greatness, we will have one overwhelming response: to pull our proud selves down to our knees, to prostrate ourselves before God Almighty, and to clothe ourselves in a robe of dependence on Christ.
And that, I think, is humility. It’s simply the proud woman, wholeheartedly upon her knees at the foot of the cross.
What a perfect posture and vantage point for the author of an entire Encyclopedia on Humility, if God should call you or me to write it.