Christians are called to be humble. As First Peter 5:5 says in clear and unambiguous terms:
“… God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
But what is humility. How to be humble? Samuel, in his rebuke of King Saul gave a wonderful definition, saying in First Samuel 15:17
“When you were little in your own sight …..”
Now that it indeed a wonderful description and definition. So simple and easy to understand. In fact, it is so good that I guess that the humble can catch the meaning instantly, but the proud, seeing it through the “I’s” of ego, will take a little longer to come to terms with it.
One thing about humility and God, is that God generally does not step in and humble individual directly. That is our own job and He generally leaves it up to us; for example, the middle of First Peter 5:5 says simply “Put on humility.” Even back in Exodus 10:3 we find God asking Pharaoh “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?” Now for sure God could humble Pharaoh and time He chose, but He wanted Pharaoh to do it himself.
Second Chronicles 7:14 continues with God saying to the Israelites:
“if My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Yes, but let’s be clear here. God can and does humble people, tribes and nations, but His preference is that we humble ourselves. I guess we learn more that way. As Matthew 18:4 says:
“… whoever shall humble himself like this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven.”
King Saul was raised up by God for many reasons, one of them was the humility which he possessed and demonstrated at the beginning of his life. This is why Samuel was able to remind him of his former state, contrasting it with what he had become. Being small in his own eyes, allowed Saul to become King, but as he grew in his own eyes, he became less and less kingly material, until the Lord took both the anointing and the kingship from him (First Samuel 15:27-28).
Moses, who led God’s people out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land also exhibited humility in answering to God “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Gideon likewise, to whom “an Angel of Jehovah appeared to him, and said to him, Jehovah is with you, mighty warrior,” replied in humility, “O, my Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:13 & 15)
Christian humility is knowing that we rely on the Lord our God for all things and at all times, and wisdom, is acting on that knowledge. Romans 9:15-16 explains the advantage of simple reliance on God, for no one else shows mercy life God:
” …. ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of God, the One showing mercy.”
The book for Proverbs supports this view of Christian humility, telling us not to rely on our own physical strength (Proverbs 21:31), or our own intellect (Proverbs 16:9), or our own luck (Proverbs 16:23) and warning us in Proverbs 16:19 saying:
“It is better to be of an humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Why? Because as we read in James 4:6 “… God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”
Finally, the humble can be seen and recognised by their actions; by their works for the Lord, rather than their words for the Lord, for humble people have been imbued with a serving heart. Romans 12:10 says that we are to act “in brotherly love to one another, loving fervently, having led one another in honour.” Galatians 5:13 adds saying “For, brothers, you were called to liberty. Only do not use the liberty for an opening to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” While Philippians 2:3-4 sums it up saying “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Do not let each man look upon his own things, but each man also on the things of others.” To do this we need humility.
Paul expands on this theme in his Epistle to the Philippians 2:5-11 as he explains how Jesus is to be our role model, saying:
“For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Let the final word on Christian humility come from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as recorded in Matthew 11:29 as He offers Himself to us saying:
“Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.”