HUMILITY

The words ‘humility’ and ‘humble’, which are from the same basic word, have a variety of meanings. In some cases they are associated with ideas of poverty or affliction (1 Sam 2:8; Ps 37:11,14; Isa 29:19; Phil 4:12; James 1:9), in others with ideas of embarrassment or shame (Isa 53:3,8; Acts 8:33; 2 Cor 9:4; 11:7; 12:21; Phil 3:21; James 1:10). Their most common usage, however, is in relation to attitudes of modesty, selflessness, gentleness, grace, meekness and forbearance. Humility in this sense is one of the virtues most pleasing to God. Its opposite, pride, is one of the evils most hateful to him (Num 12:3; Prov 6:16-17; Dan 5:22-23; Micah 6:8; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; see PRIDE). Jesus Christ is the great example of humility. In an act of total self-denial, the eternal Son of God humbled himself to the extent of taking human form and in the end dying to save sinners (Phil 2:5-11). He was never boastful and never acted in a way that advanced his own interests. Always he submitted to his Father’s will, so that he not only served God but also served those among whom he lived (Matt 12:19- 20; 20:28; John 5:30-32). Just as Jesus humbled himself in living and dying for sinners, so sinners must humble themselves in repenting of their sins if they are to receive God’s forgiveness.

God gives sinners no cause to boast in anything they might achieve. They can do nothing but acknowledge how helpless they are before God and humbly accept God’s mercy (2 Chron 7:14; 12:6-7; 34:27; Luke 18:9-14; Rom 3:27; 10:3). Humility characterized Christ’s kingship (Matt 21:5), and only through humility can anyone enter his kingdom (Matt 18:1-4). Christians have a responsibility to develop humility in their lives. It is part of the life to which God has called them (Eph 4:1-2; Col 3:12), it is a characteristic of life in God’s kingdom (Matt 20:20-27) and it is the product of the Spirit’s work in the life of the individual (Gal 5:23). If they are to learn humility, they must be willing to take the lowest place and serve others (Luke 22:24-27; John 13:3-17). Such humility will help produce genuine fellowship in the church. It will prevent Christians from competing with each other to see who is the greatest among them (Mark 9:33-37; Rom 12:16; 2 Cor 10:12; Gal 6:3; Eph 4:2; Phil 2:3). Those who look for status and praise may gain what they seek, but their reward will be short-lived (Matt 6:1-5,16). God exalts those who humble themselves, but humbles those who exalt themselves (Prov 3:34; 15:33; 18:12; Isa 2:11; 5:15; Matt 23:12; Luke 1:48-53: James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).

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