The Power of Christian Humility
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Co. 12:9).
What is humility and how does it empower the Believer? Simply defined, humility is the state of being humble. It is the opposite of pride or arrogance and assumes a diminutive posture rather than an inflated one.
To the Christian, humility is the action that deflects attention from self in order to focus it on God. It takes no ownership of one's natural gifting and abilities, puts no confidence in self, and refuses to take credit for any success. Humility offers complete freedom from the desire to impress, be right, or get ahead. Frustration, rejection, and loss have less impact on those who are humble. And a humble life results in contentment, patience, forgiveness, and most importantly, an unobstructed walk with Jesus.
But humility also requires an acknowledgement of our human limitations and failures. We must recognize that we are too weak to succeed apart from God’s grace (Phip. 4:13). Instead of self-reliance, we begin to practice reliance on God.
While the idea that weakness leads to greatness sounds absurd to those living by the philosophies and standards of the world, the Bible teaches that it's the only way to achieve any degree of spiritual success. In God’s scale of aptitude, the lower our view of self, the higher He can promote us. Simply put, God chooses to demonstrate His greatness through our frailness.
Sadly, few Christians really understand or even value the power of humility. And as a result, many walk about with a self righteous attitude and an air of superiority. So often we forget who we are and where we came from, and lose sight of the reality that all of us are merely sinners saved by grace. We then become cynical in our religious outlook and just like the Pharisees of Christ’s day, live in hypocrisy and cast judgment on those who don’t match up to our expectations.
So what’s the cure for this condition? How can we safeguard against the pharisaical “leaven” of self-righteousness? And more importantly, how can we determine whether or not we have been compromised by pride? If our heart is sincere and honest, then we will be willing to take a litmus test of our true spirituality. I hope the following study points will help us do exactly that.
Pride is the opposite of humility. It is the attitude of power and self importance. It presumes that all of one’s ability is concentrated in SELF. A proud person is also arrogant and conceited. According to Scripture, pride is the attitude that robs God from the glory rightfully belonging to Him and heaps it upon man. We are told that this is the original sin. Satan was proud and desired to compete with God and was therefore cast out of heaven (Eze 28:17). In Job 41:34, Satan is called the “king over all the sons of pride”.
Christians fall into pride the moment they become SELF-important or SELF-righteous on account of their spiritual success. They may give God lots of lip service, but their actions and words betray their underlying desire to draw men’s admiration to SELF. Only a Christian in SELF-denial will fail to acknowledge their occasional or frequent weakness in this area. Because most of us are prone to pride on account of our Adamic nature, it will greatly impede our spiritual success if we fail to deal with it.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HUMILITY?
"For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:15).
"Seek the LORD, All you humble of the earth Who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility Perhaps you will be hidden In the day of the LORD'S anger" (Zephaniah 2:3).
"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God"? (Micah 6:8).
"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4).
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29).
"I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
"But He gives a greater grace Therefore it says, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
HUMILITY IN ACTION
So how can we put humility into action? This important question is answered in the following points, borrowed from an online source (in blue):
• Humility understands individual limitations. Unlike God, humans, by definition, are finite and thus, limited in their understanding. Our talents are different, our minds are different, and our experiences vary from one another. Individually, we comprehend only a small, unique fraction of God’s plan. But together, the individual members of Christ arrive at a far more accurate view of eternity. Humble people realize their understanding is limited and embrace it. As a result, they wisely look for answers outside of themselves. They will compare notes with other Christians to be sure their perception of truth isn’t skewed. (Rom 12:3; Jn 15:5; Eph 4:16).
• Humility appreciates others. All human life carries inherent value. Our souls hold no more value or importance in God’s eyes than the person sitting next to us, no matter where we may be sitting. A humble person appreciates the fact that the world does not revolve around him or her and accepts their position in the Body as just a tiny piece in the giant puzzle (Rom 12:3; Php 2:3).
• Humility respects others and their opinions. Just because an opinion is different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And while an opposing opinion or view may indeed be wrong, it is never so simply because it is different than ours, and that is a far better place to begin the dialogue (Rom 12:3; Phip 2:3).
• Humility listens more and speaks less. It spends more time understanding… and less time being understood (Jas 1:19).
• Humility withholds judgments over intentions as much as possible. The quickest way to win an argument in your mind is to make sweeping judgments concerning the intentions of others. It is the easiest way to discount any valid, opposing argument. It is also one of the most damaging. In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the primary reasons that humility has completely vanished from our spiritual discourse ( Mat 7:1; 1 Cor 4:5).
• Humility helps others and promotes others (Rom 14:1; 16:7).
• Humility has nothing to prove, but everything to offer (Jas 4:10).
• Humility is gentle, patient, and compassionate: So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).
• Humility is willing to practice self-abasement:
"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1 Timothy 1:15).
"For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing" (Rom 7:18).
"O Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24).
• Humility is transparent with others in respect to sin: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, so that you are healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous one accomplishes much" (Jas 5:16).
HUMILITY IS NOT TIMIDITY
Those who are timid, fearful, shy, or socially introverted may be sometimes mistaken as humble. But this is a wrong assessment. Jesus Christ was the most humble man that ever lived and our chief example of humility, yet He was hardly a timid or shy person. Jesus was never afraid to confront sin, even to the shame and offense of others (Mat 7:29). And the Apostles were no different. Their example demonstrates that they were boldly outspoken about their faith and never cringed from an opportunity to preach the Gospel (Act 4:31; Tit 2:15; 1 Peter 4:11). This teaches us that humble people can also be bold and sometimes even confrontational when necessary (Tit 2:15; 1 Pet 3:15).
CLOAKED IN HUMILITY OR “CLOTHED IN HUMILITY”?
Jesus often decried false humility. He publicly called out the Pharisees on their hypocrisy because He recognized that they were expert “con-artists”. They were good at putting on false airs of humility (Mat 6:16). Their chief aim was to illicit the praise of men and to impress their self-importance upon others—"for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn 12:43). But the Pharisees were merely “cloaked” in “humility” and their spirituality was superficial at best.
Conversely, the Scriptures instruct us to be “clothed” in humility (1 Pet 5:5). And there’s a big difference between being cloaked and being clothed. The first is merely a show for the sake of appearances, while the latter is a deliberate desire that starts in the heart and changes our way of thinking.
In closing, let me encourage all of us to walk in the same humility exemplified by Christ and His disciples. While the world needs to see us living victoriously in areas of sin, they also need to see transparency concerning our failings and weaknesses. This means we must avoid the “leaven” of the Pharisees in respect to pride and false humility. And it also means we must avoid giving a pretense of meekness by speaking in negotiable terms about sin and using an overly diplomatic approach to win people to Christ. This is not real humility, and it does a big disservice to God’s Kingdom.