So much of our culture screams out about the importance of self that it is hard to see what God defines as humility, and Christ taught as setting someone above yourself. We are called to be humble, as followers of Christ’s example and character, and to teach others the benefits of true humility. So, what is it and what does it look like?
What it is not
First we must look at what it is not. Humility is not weakness. Like meekness, it is a character that requires strength and trust. In order to be truly humble, you must be sure of your identity, and must trust that you will be cared for well. Humility is also not putting yourself down. You are not to neglect your own needs, or decry what you perceive as lacking in your repertoire. In order to be truly humble, you must be confident of what God can do through you, and trust that even your weaknesses can be used for His glory, not needing to be hidden.
What it is
The Bible defines humility as seeking the well-being of others over yourself (Philippians 2:3). Many verses, such as Proverbs 11:2, describe humility as the opposite of pride. So, pride is the elevation of self over all others. According to that verse, the reward for pride is disgrace, and the reward for humility is wisdom. James 4:6 tells us that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Ephesians 4:2 explains that humility, combined with gentleness and patience, is a characteristic of godly love.
What it is for
Humility is a character trait that is to be evident in the life of every true believer in Jesus Christ. He showed the ultimate example of humility when He chose to take up the cross for us. In Luke 14:11, Jesus explains that those who humble themselves will be exalted by God. If you want to be a true leader worth following, then you start by humbling yourself and serving those you are meant to lead. Jesus demonstrated this in the upper room just before His death by washing His disciples’ feet (John 13).
What it looks like
Examples of humility are given throughout scripture. In Genesis, Noah built an ark of safety for his family, taking over 100 years to do it, while all the people around mocked him. He preached, pleading with the people to take the opportunity for salvation. Not once do we see him talk back to the people, look down upon the people, or complain about their attitudes. In Job, the rich man who received deep trials without a given reason, continued to give God glory and seek to help his friends grow in their faith. He listened graciously to his three friends, standing up for his own actions, but seeking to do what was right. In Samuel, David, even though he knew that he would be king one day, refused to be a part of killing the evil king Saul. He even exacted judgment on the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul for David. In the gospels, Jesus lived a life of humility, depending on the income from a group of ladies, and seeking to meet the needs of others, even when He was exhausted.
If humility really is a character trait given to us by God, let us take it up with enthusiasm. If humility really is a strength, let us trust God to work through us to build others up. If you humility is really to be our focus, let us not worry about our own needs, depending on Him to care for us. In a world of selfishness, self-care is important, but in a community of humility and godliness, self-care should not ever be needed.
What are you doing to demonstrate godly humility today?