Pastor Dennis Smith
Humility. We all have a pretty good idea what that is, at least we think we do. We usually define it by contrasting it with what it doesn’t mean. Humility means not being puffed up with pride. It means not touting one’s abilities or accomplishments. It means not putting one’s own needs ahead of the other’s. Humility means being aware that we don’t know everything and that someone else just might be able to teach us something. Being humble means knowing that there is always someone out there who is stronger or smarter or more talented or better looking than you. It means you don’t think you are God’s gift to the world.
But I would like us to think about humility for a moment from a biblical point of view. The notion of humility is common in Scripture; I think the words humble or humility occur 63 times in the KJV. In addition, the idea of being “poor” appears often as a figure of speech for humility, as when Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
The need for humility on the part of God’s people is an undercurrent that runs throughout the Scriptures. In the Bible, this need for humility is almost always presented in the context of interpersonal relations, not simply as a private, personal virtue. In other words, humility in the Bible is important because it affects and guides both our response to God and our treatment of other people — how we relate to others.
Probably most of us see ourselves as humble, more or less! We don’t boast or brag publicly. We don’t seek the limelight. We don’t look down on others, especially those in the church. Or do we?
Here’s the rub as I see it. Right now, I think there is a certain level of contention or strife in the churches, at least in the background. And when there is contention among the saints, it often reflects a lack of humility. Besides simple personality conflicts (to which we all must be alert), strife can arise from stressful circumstances or worldly concerns, and can even revolve around politically charged issues. A lack of humility can then manifest itself in dismissive, contemptuous, or sharp comments directed at one another. We show that we really do think more of ourselves and our opinions. It’s just the opposite of humility.
Jesus of course is our example in things pertaining to godliness. His invitation to all was, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” I mentioned at the outset that humility can mean we don’t think we are God’s gift to the world. Well here’s the thing: Jesus indeed was and is God’s gift to the world, and he dealt gently and humbly with people. (Lowly in heart means humble; meek means gentle, mild.) It was predicted of Jesus that, figuratively speaking, in his gentleness, he would not so much as quench even a glowing ember of faith or break off a hurting soul that is like a damaged, bent-over reed.
It is said of him that he “made himself of no reputation” and that “he humbled himself” to the point of suffering the most humiliating of deaths for us. Considering that reality the Bible admonishes: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” So, in our dealings with one another, how humble, how gentle are we, really?