HUMILITY: WHAT IS IT?
An outstanding quality of the life of Christ is his amazing humility. Why would anyone come from so high to descend so low just to rescue us from our certain destruction? Why would the Holy One stoop to wash the feet of the betrayer, the denier, and the coward?
The opposite of humility is self-centeredness, or pride. This is the basic characteristic of a mindset influenced and controlled by Satan. What is often taught as a virtue in our American culture is presented as a sin in the Bible. We read in Proverbs 6:16, 17 that "a proud look is an abomination to the LORD." God promises to "destroy the house of the proud," (Proverbs 15:25). "A haughty look, a proud heart … are sin. " (Proverbs 21:4). "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6). To be proud means, "to consider yourself to be superior to others". It is a wrong way of looking at yourself with respect to others.
To really appreciate humility, we can contrast it with its opposite quality, which is pride: Pride says: "Don't tell me anything. I already know it all." Humility says: "Thanks for your advice and help."
Pride says: "I need, I want, I deserve." Humility says: "He needs, they want, you deserve."
Pride says: "God, I am so much better than my fellow man." Humility says: "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."
Pride criticizes others to tear them down. Humility praises others in order to build them up.
Pride exalts himself but God resists him. Humility humbles himself before God and God lifts him up.
Pride says: "I can do all things." Humility says: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Pride says: "I want to be served." Humility said: "I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many."
Pride says: "Look what I did." Humility says: "See what God has done in me!"
Pride stood in the streets and shouted: "Crucify him! He became more popular than we are". Humility, hanging on the cross, looked upward and prayed: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Pride seeks the glory but does not find it. Humility receives glory and honor from others without seeking it.
The difference between pride and humility is the difference between light and darkness. When "The Light" came into the world, the perfect example of humility was revealed to us.
JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE OF HUMILITY
In the life of Jesus Christ, we can see a living demonstration of what it means to be humble. In his relationship with God and also with people, he always proved himself to be an humble servant, without pretension, without pride, unselfish and unprejudiced.
In Jesus we see a man who gave himself to the downtrodden of his age. He associated with workers and fishermen. He drank from the same cup of the mixed race woman who was so despised and rejected by religious people. Jesus showed his spirit of humility when, entering in each city, he touched the unclean bodies of the lepers and the tongues of the deaf mutes. He cared for the demon possessed ones to whom others were so afraid to get near. He accepted the invitations to eat in the houses of sinners and publicans as well as Pharisees and hypocrites.
Jesus did not avoid any class of person. Women of ill repute came to him knowing they would find understanding, forgiveness and also a command to go and sin no more. Jesus was at ease in the presence of the rich and powerful as well as beggars and blind men who lived along the dusty roads to any city. Jesus took time from his busy agenda to speak to others, answer questions, extend mercy and show the better way to live. He visited houses of the people and services of other religious leaders, attended weddings, went fishing with friends and blessed little children. He never failed to stop and answer a call for help. Even though he had all the rights to be exalted and to glorify himself (after all, he knew that he was the only begotten Son of God) Jesus always insisted that it was his Father who did everything. In Jesus we can see all the attitudes associated with a person poor in spirit: humility, submission, service, faith and love.
Consider four areas in which Jesus' humility stands out:
1. HIS BIRTH
Read and . It was not by chance that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. "Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9). He was not born in a sanitized hospital and laid on silk sheets in a crib of ivory. Actually, though, even that would have been a huge step-down from the glory, honor and power he emptied himself of in order to come into the world. Have you ever heard of the owner and CEO of a large multinational company who left all his wealth, comfort and honor just to live among society's rejects because he had compassion for them and wanted to help them? If you can imagine that, then multiply it by 1000 and you will just barely begin to understand Jesus' love and humility.
2. HIS TOTAL DEPENDENCE ON HIS HEAVENLY FATHER
We all seem to strive to be independent, to be on our own. We may say, "I can take care of myself" or "I am a self made man" with a good dose of pride. But we are seeing how humility is allowing God to be everything, surrendering ourselves to Him and to His will. In Jesus we see this perfect, voluntary, dependence. Listen to his words in John's gospel:
5:19 - "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do
5:30 - "I can of Myself do nothing."
6:38 - "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
7:16, 17 - "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me."
8:28 - "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things."
8:50 - "I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges."
14: 10 - "The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works."
14:24 - "The word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me."
... And many more
Jesus gave the Father all the credit. He became as nothing so God could be everything. He totally submitted himself to the Father's words, works and will. That is how God was able to gain, in the life of Jesus, the redemption of the human race.
The life of Christ is a life of self-denial and complete dependence on God. In all his humility, though, He lost nothing, because the Father has "highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).
May this be our life also.
3. HIS SERVICE TO OTHERS See and . One who humbles himself before God is able to humble himself before men. He was a servant to all. Can you picture the Lord of all, taking a towel and water basin, kneeling before unworthy men to wash their dirty feet, including the friend who would soon betray him and the disciple who would insist three times that very night that he did not know him? He washed the feet of brothers who had just been fussing about which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom. What a fantastic example he gave us! If we ever think that we are too high and mighty to kneel down before the filthy of this world to help remove their stench, then we are not yet like the Son of God!
4. HIS LIFESTYLE -Jesus led a simple life. He didn't reside in palaces. He even discouraged a would-be follower saying, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Matthew 8:20). His simplicity and humility become even more impressive when we remember that He is the one who created the universe. By all rights, everything belonged to him, but when Jesus entered into Jerusalem to be crowned as king of the Jews and Messiah who could save all the people, he chose to come riding on a donkey!
Read. What a difference between the values of Jesus and the other "great men of history"! They say that Alexander the Great entered India in a grand procession of 200 painted elephants, 200 soldiers on black horses and 200 lions surrounding him as he sat on a golden throne atop an ivory chariot proclaiming "I am the Lord of the universe. I conquered the world. Now I will conquer the stars". Alexander died at 33 and today owns nothing. But the humble king Jesus is still the King of kings and Lord of lords. The humble road of this unpretentious servant carried him to eternal glory.
The proof of our humility before God is how we live among people. It is easy to say that we love God whom we do not see but true love is seen in our love for our neighbor and in our humility. How do you know that Christ lives in you? Can it be that you participate in his character? To know if you are humble or not, it is necessary to examine your daily life.
Do you live giving preference to others?
Are you wise in your own eyes?
Do you really love without getting puffed up and without serving your own interests?
Do you serve others in love?
Do you put up with others in love and longsuffering?
Do you consider others superior to yourself?
Do you forgive others like Jesus forgave you?
What is it like to be humble? The answer is in the way you treat people. Only when we consider ourselves as nothing in relation to God will we be able to consider as superior those who have less knowledge, talent, wisdom and holiness. Adopt Christ's spirit that did not seek his own glory. If this is not your spirit, then do the following exercises to grow in humility.
EXERCISES TO GROW IN HUMILITY
1. Think about the example of Jesus more and the beauty of His humility and His way of treating others.
2. Think about how dependent you are on God. On your own you can't even breathe. He gives us everything to sustain us and care for us.
3. Think about your own sins. How often have you done wrong? How far do you fall short of God's glory? How many times have you had the opportunity to do good and haven't.
4. Think about the cross on Calvary - the price Jesus paid for your sins.
5. Put Jesus on the throne of your heart, making the decision to submit your will, actions and life to him.
6. Pray for God to help you grow in humility.
7. Begin to practice the things that an humble person would do. If you can't control your feelings, at least you can control your actions, trusting God to give you the correct feelings.
So submit yourself to God and to other persons, seeking their interests instead of your own.
Answer these questions in order to measure your own level of humility:
1. Do you consider yourself superior to others?
2. Do you think you still need to read and study the Bible in order to understand better the will of God for your life?
3. Do you ask God daily to help you face the trials of life?
4. Do you feel put out when someone orders you to do something?
5. Are you really conscious of the fact that all you have belongs to God?
6. Did you yield this week to the will, opinion or preference of someone else?
7. Do you feel good when you help someone poorer, less educated, or in a lower social class than yourself?
8. When you have a misunderstanding with another person, do you find it difficult to ask forgiveness or apologize?
9. Did you hurt someone with your words this week?
10. Do you feel bad when you do a good deed but nobody sees or nobody recognizes you for doing it?