Friday, September 14, 2012

Humility vs. Pride, Part 1 ~ By Heather Young

In this article, I will talk about humility.  I will attempt to explain what humility is, why it is good to be humble, and how we can become truly humble.  What is humility? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, to be humble means “having or showing a consciousness of one’s shortcomings.”  Surprisingly, this definition matches up almost exactly with what the Bible has to say about humility.

During my search for verse about humility, I discovered four different types of humility:
            1. Humility as a slave/servant
            2. Humility as a child
            3. Humility toward God
            4. Humility toward others

1. Humility as a slave/servant

and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:27-28

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11-12

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:3-11

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility.  Although He could have disobeyed His Father by rejecting the cross, he chose to follow God’s plan for His life by humbling Himself as a lowly servant.  Even to death He was obedient.  After Jesus became fully aware that He was God’s Son, He could have made everyone bow down and serve Him like a king.  Instead, as Matthew chapter 20 says, He “came not to be served but to serve.”

2. Humility as a child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:1-4

“[Jesus] said to them, Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.’”
Luke 9:48

In a way, children are forced to show humility toward their parents.  A baby cannot feed itself, clothe its body, or change its own diaper.  We need to be dependent on God for our daily sustenance, or we will often fee empty.

3. Humility toward God

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
James 4:1-10

After reading this passage, you may be puzzled, as I was, by verse 9, “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy be turned to gloom.”  How does this verse even fit into the context of the beginning of James chapter 4? In John Calvin’s commentary on James 4:9, he explains:

“[James] addresses those who, being inebriated (drunk) in their minds, did not perceive God's judgment. Thus it happened that they flattered themselves in their vices. That he might shake off from them this deadly torpor (stupor), he admonishes them to learn to mourn, that being touched with sorrow of conscience they might cease to flatter themselves and to exult on the verge of destruction. Then laughter is to be taken as signifying the flattering with which the ungodly deceive themselves, while they are infatuated by the sweetness of their sins and forget the judgment of God.

4. Humility toward others

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
1 Peter 5:1-6

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Romans 12:3-5

When we humble ourselves toward one another, we allow room for God to use us together as the body of Christ.

“[The LORD] mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 3:34

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
James 4:10

God is very serious about rewarding those who do what He asks.  When we humble ourselves in obedience to God, He will give us grace, which results in eternity in heaven with Him.

An argument arose among [the disciples] as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.’”
Luke 9:46-48

The following comments on this passage are credited to Pastor Ron Mehl:

Even though the disciples had walked with Jesus for many years, they did not yet understand true humility.  A lack of humility makes you compare yourself with others like the disciples were in verse 46.  Also, a lack of humility also makes you critical of others like the disciples were in verse 49, where it says, “John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’”  In the next verse Jesus informs John that the person was not against them.

True humility is a right perspective of God, yourself, and others.  When we have a right perspective of God, we should be focused on not our inadequacies, but God’s greatness—not focusing on what we’re not, but seeing Him for who He is.  When we have a right perspective of ourselves, we should not be self-degrading, but instead we should be self-accepting.  Lastly, when we have a right perspective of others, instead of being judgmental like the disciple were in Luke 9, we become accepting and want to serve others.

What does true humility look like? I believe Isaiah was one great example.  Once he realized what a wretched sinner he was, and what a great God he served, he said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

To overcome a lack of humility, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are always in the presence of God.  If we imagine Jesus sitting right next to us all the time (which He is!), just imagine how much different our lives would be!

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