It has been said that humility is one of those things that if you claim you have it, you don’t! There is something to be said concerning this statement. Humility is one of those characteristics that you have in your life that is better shown that stated. It is also something that is desired by all, but obtained by few. Why is this? Likely because so few people recognize true humility when they see it. True humility is not glamorized in the world, it is pummeled. Television and Movies glamorize the action hero that does everything by his own plans and with his own hands. Frank Sinatra proudly sang, “I did it my way.” The world values such things, but we as Christians need to have a different mind set (2 Corinthians 6:17). So what are some of the qualities of humility? Let’s look at a few together.
Humility means submitting to God’s will first. James writes, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10). Humility starts first with our relationship with God. Many forces will try to sway us away from God’s will in our lives. However, making the humble choice will always begin with God. God is ever present with us and the choices in our life should reflect the awareness of that presence. When we make choices that don’t glorify God, then we are glorifying self and that is not humility at all, but pride. In the long ago the prophet wrote, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).
Humility often means having to submit to someone else’s wisdom when we really do not want to do that. I am not referring to choosing to sin or something like that. Choosing to sin would not be humbling oneself before God. I am referring to choices that do not necessarily involve sin, but may lead to sin if we make that choice. How late should I stay up Saturday night so as not to affect my worship Sunday morning? What friends should I choose to hang out with? Should I go to Cancun on vacation or somewhere with my parents? These are obviously not the only choices, but they are illustrative of what I am discussing. Many times others will have the best answers to such questions. We need to rely upon their wisdom in this regard. Peter writes, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Humility means elevating others above yourself. In Philippians 2:3, 4 we read, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” When we esteem others better than self, we practice humility. To esteem someone means that we value them more highly than we would value ourselves. Sometimes this means placing their opinion above our own. It may also mean submitting to another’s judgment regarding our behavior until we have had more time to think things through. This also means taking care of each other through service one to another. The example in this passage is Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins. He did not have to do that for us, but He did because He loved us. Submitting to one another in humility is as much an act of love as anything.
Humility sometimes means having to suffer for someone else’s mistakes. In 1 Peter 4:16, Peter writes, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Peter was not talking about suffering as a result of justice (verse 15) but suffering unjustly. When we suffer unjustly because we are living the life that Christ wants us to live, then we are acting humbly. We may not deserve some of the things that we have to endure, but we should endure them nonetheless because we are doing so for Christ. Jesus certainly did not deserve the things that He suffered, but he endured them for our sakes. He humbled himself for us that we might have eternal life. Can we humble ourselves for Him that we and others might have the same opportunity?
The practice of humility in our life requires a certain amount of wisdom. We must first humble ourselves before God and then humble ourselves before our fellow man. When we have such an attitude, then God is pleased with the choices and decisions that result from such an attitude. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7).