Anyone else grow up confused about what it meant to be humble? I feel like we start to see confusion about this word starting around early pre-teen/late childhood. People realize that no one likes someone who talks about themselves like they’re great, but people who say that they’re not so hot are complemented and called “humble.”
So, is humility self-deprecation?
Um, no. No, it’s not.
The most humble man in the Bible was Moses.
“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3 NIV
(circa YouVersion app)
You know who penned that statement? Moses. Led by the Holy Spirit of God.
So, does humility mean pretending that God has not gifted you or saying that you’re not that great or pretty or whatever?
No! That actually goes against the Bible!
In Psalm 139:14, David–speaking about HIMSELF–says that he is fearfully and wonderfully made.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14 NIV
(circa Youversion app)
He actually gives glory to God for the way that God designed his body! Additionally, in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul talks a lot about using your gifts for the building up of the body (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, etc.). To use your gifts, you must be aware that you have them! So, humility must not mean pretending that you have zero giftings or abilities or are an ugly person.
What is humility then? What does that look like?
Well, the best place to look for an example of humility is in Jesus.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:5-8 NIV
(circa Youversion app)
What did Jesus do that exemplified humility?
- He did not consider His greatness or strength to be something He should use to his advantage.
- He served others, acting like he was just a normal person, even though he wasn’t.
- He was obedient to God even to the point of death.
So, Jesus could have walked around earth proclaiming His deity. He could have had others serve Him constantly–He was and is a King after all. He could have taken Himself off the cross.
But no. He considered God’s values to be above His self importance. He loved others so much that He was willing to sacrifice His image (by looking weak) and His life for us, because that was God’s great and awesome plan. He served His disciples just to exemplify how they should love others, when really they should have always been serving Him.
If we look back a few verses from the passage in Phillippians about Christ’s humility, we see another really awesome definition of how we act out humility in our day to day lives:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
(circa Youversion app)
Another way to say “value others above yourselves” would be “consider others more superior/higher than yourselves.” Again, this doesn’t mean you should think of yourself poorly. But it does mean you should think of others more highly than you do yourself. So, spend more time thinking about how great other people are than you do thinking about how great you are. Think about what a blessing they are and not how much of a blessing you think you are.
Also, we shouldn’t just care about our own interests, but also the interests of others. So, that means thinking about their cares and what’s going on in their lives in addition to caring about what’s going on in your own life.
Finally, one thing that I think is a good illustration of humility is bowing. It is yielding, especially to wise and godly counsel and to God. It goes hand in hand with fearing (revering, respecting) the Lord. It’s submitting, knowing that God’s way is right.
And with humility comes a whole lot of good stuff:
Honor (Prov. 15:33; Prov. 29:23)
Riches and Life (Prov. 22:4)*
God’s favor (1 Peter 5:5)
Inheritance of the earth (Matt. 5:5)
Prosperity and Peace (Psalm 37:11)**
So, let’s grow in following Christ’s example of true humility and inherit the blessings the Lord has for us as rewards.
*Side note: I am not an advocate of Prosperity doctrine (i.e. God will make you super wealthy). I do believe God will take care of your needs, which is a financial blessing. I love this explanation of why Prosperity doctrine is not in alignment with Scripture. If you have more questions, please reach out to a pastor at a Bible-believing church.
**In my strong’s lexicon app, this is translated to English as “and the meek shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” I’m not sure why it was translated to prosperity and peace in the NIV. However, in context, this Psalm does talk a bit about the Lord providing for your needs and taking care of you.