Humility, noun, from the Latin humilitas: a modest view of one’s own importance; humbleness, gentleness. Humility is sometimes confused with meekness or low self-esteem. It is impossible to be humble without a healthy sense of your own worth and abilities. The classic Christian view of humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The Christian understands that humility is the appropriate attitude toward God and toward each other.
Maybe the most significant thing about humility is that it is one of the character attributes of God. In Psalm 113:5–6 we see that while God is incomparably high and great, he humbles himself to take note of the created things (NKJV).
A Jew From Nazareth Redefines Greatness.
We get another glimpse of the humility of God in the earthly life of Jesus. Humility was not a virtue in the ancient world, much less the Greco-Roman culture. Honor and shame were the two choices on the virtue spectrum. Humility was seen as as a sign of weakness or even a character flaw. Jesus’s acts of humility represent the hinge between the Greco-Roman definition of humility (insignificant, unimportant) and the Christian definition of the word.
Jesus’s life changed the culture from prizing honor and despising the lowering oneself, to one of humility (which prizes lowering yourself for others). This is not a religious conclusion, but a historical one. It resulted from his followers coming to grips with the greatest man they had ever known being brought to the lowest place the Roman world could envisage, death by crucifixion (Note1). It took only a few decades from the crucifixion for humility to become central to the Christian characteristic of the ethical life. And within a couple of centuries it had become commonplace, Christian or not. And it remains so 2,000 years later. Why? Because it comports with the reality of the created order.
We need to pay attention. Genuine humility puts us in alignment with God, and those around us.
James tells us that humility is also a suitable response to worldliness: “Therefore submit 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:7-10 NKJV
The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life. Proverbs 22:4 NASB
What approach should we take? I say humility.
- Philippians 2: 3-8
From the #saytheword series.