“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).
Humility is a strange bird. If you think you have it, it’s a pretty good indication you don’t. If you think you do not have it, it’s possible you do or that you do not. Hard to tell.
Humility is known more by what it does and refuses to do, how it works and serves, and what it talks about and refuses to mention. You can see it better in someone else than in yourself.
I said to 78-year-old Marguerite Briscoe, “You are the most Christ-like person I know.” She said, “Oh honey, if you just knew.” I was 45 years her junior at that moment, but am now the same age as she. And I do know.
I know that the closer to the light you get, the more blemishes you see. The farther from the light you stand, the more likely it is you’ll like what you see and feel good about yourself. But beware of coming into a bathroom with lights blazing and mirrors covering a wall; you’ll want to commit suicide.
I’ve been thinking about humility a lot lately. Partly, it’s because I was preaching on Matthew 18 last Sunday, which begins with the Lord bringing a child before the disciples and saying, “Unless you are converted and become as this little child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It’s much easier to see humility in someone else than in yourself. You can see humility in the way Guy Farnsworth serves and serves and declines offers to recognize him publicly or elect him as chairman of deacons. You can see humility in what Frank Pollard said about his longtime pastoral ministry: “I don’t want to be remembered; I’m just the messenger.” You can see humility in how my wife Bertha bakes banana bread and takes to shut-ins and elderly friends without the first thought of them owing her anything.
You can also see pride, humility’s opposite. We see it, pastor, in the way your wall is covered with accolades, accomplishments, and trophies of your ministry. We see it in the way a boss says, “It’s my way or the highway.” We see it in the way a playground bully brutalizes the other children or his counterpart, all grown up now, does the same thing at church.
Pride on display is not a pretty sight. Jesus showed the ugliness of pride and the loveliness of humility in His parable on prayer in Luke 18:9-14. It’s a keeper; found nowhere else in Scripture.
I’ve noticed something. About the time I start feeling good about my humility–I’m dead serious–things happen:
–Someone challenges my Bible knowledge and accuses me of ignorance and unbelief. And it infuriates me.
–Someone makes a derogatory remark about my education and degrees. The speaker assumed that because I am Baptist I’m also ignorant and purchased my degrees by mail-order.
–Someone treats me like a nobody. A servant even.
And that’s very, very good for me. I needed that cold water to the face. A wakeup call.
Scripture gives a number of promises to those who do the hard work of humbling themselves (which, by the way, I have decided is a daily discipline):
–God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. I want more grace, so I’ll work at humbling myself.
–If I humble myself, God will exalt me. And since his exalting is far superior to any accolades I could award myself (!), I think I’ll let Him do the exalting.
It’s a daily thing. As the saying goes, “The trouble with a living sacrifice is it keeps crawling off the altar.” Likewise with the human ego. No matter how many times it has been dethroned and debased before the Savior, t keeps reasserting itself and claiming the throne of the human heart. So, we begin every new day by asserting that we are His and Jesus is Lord.
“Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”