“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God” (James 4:6).
“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time….” (5:6).
A Facebook friend said, “I’m very proud of my humility.”
Humility is not a subject most of us would claim to know much about. In fact, we would shy away from anyone claiming to be humble. The very claim contradicts itself.
In fact, by the paradoxical nature of this trait, a truly humble person would be the last to know it. So, when told that “You are a genuinely humble person,” the appropriate response might be something like “Who, me? Thank you. I wish!”
Now, there are few traits more attractive in a leader than humility. The Lord of Heaven and earth stooped to wash the feet of His disciples, in so doing forever disallowing His preachers from playing the royalty card (John 13). “The Son of Man did not come to be ministered unto,” He said, “but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Biblically. Anecdotally. And personally. The evidences of a truly humble person are no secret. Not that this list is exhaustive, but the traits of a humble person would surely include…
The following seven traits….
One. An overwhelming sense of the blessings of God. His generosity. His grace. “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for HIs wonderful works to the children of men!” (That exclamatory bit of praise comes from Psalm 107 where it is repeated in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31.)
God is so good to me. Far better than I deserve. “I feel like I’m God’s favorite child,” a friend says. “My cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5), said King David.
Words you will hear a lot from the truly humble: “Thank you!”
Two. A corresponding and equal awareness of our own unworthiness. The two go hand in hand. “He must increase, I must decrease,” is how John the Baptizer put it (John 3:30). More of Him means less and less of me.
The best instruction on humility for my money is the parable our Lord gave in Luke 17:7-10. When we have done all the things He has commanded us–imagine that! we’ve fulfilled everything He instructed–we say to ourselves, “I am only an unworthy servant. I’m just doing my duty.”
Each of us has to give ourselves a little talking-to from time to time. The ego will not give up the drive for recognition and awards easily, so it must be continually put in its place.
Words you will never hear from the truly humble: “I’m entitled.” “I deserve.”
Three. A daily repentance prompted by a strong sense of my sinful heart. “I need Thee every hour” as the hymn puts it. “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” said Jeremiah 10:23. We know that to be true.
Not only in the initial moment of salvation do we pray the publican’s prayer of Luke 18–“God be merciful to me the sinner!”–but every day of our lives. There has never been a day when I did not need the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.
Words the truly humble will be heard praying often: “Lord, have mercy on me!” (The opening words of Psalm 51 should be heard in our prayers often.)
Four. A humble person is teachable. The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 asked Philip, “How can I (understand the Scriptures), unless someone teach me?” Then he “invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (8:31).
Ever since, the signal hallmark of a new believer and a true one has been a teachable spirit. No one among us knows it all. We are impressed by this trait in the flaming evangelist Apollos who arrived in Ephesus to great acclaim. He was “mighty in the scriptures” and “fervent in spirit.” But there was a problem. “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” And how did he respond to this? He took their counsel and advice gladly and became even more effective for Christ. “He greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:24-28).
We pray: “Lord, show me the way.” And, “Search my heart and know me, O God. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Five. A constant desire for greater obedience. I want to serve Him better than I’ve been doing.
Obedience is a huge thing in the Word. The man who built his house on the rock, said Jesus, was the one who heard the Word and did it! (Matthew 7:24).
“For this purpose I wrote to you,” said Paul to the Corinthians, “that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things which I command you” (Luke 6:46)? And “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
No one is truly humble before God who is not doing all he can to serve Him. “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart (Psalm 40:7).
Six. Compassion for others.
A humble person is not preoccupied with oneself.
The humble person sees the fallen and backslidden in light of his own wicked heart. He is not judgmental or condemning. He is neither harsh or unforgiving. He does not insist that the sinner should get what’s coming to him. He believes what our Lord said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
I have sat in the back of the funeral home when another preacher was eulogizing a person who did harsh and cruel things to me. And I prayed, “Father, please forgive him. I forgive him.” Knowing the truth of Matthew 5:7, I figure I’ll need all the mercy I can get when I stand before the Lord, and so want to show it to others.
Seven. And perhaps the biggest surprise of all: The humble person has a healthy self-esteem. The wonderful I Corinthians 13 says, “Love does not brag and is not arrogant,” then adds: “Love rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (13:4,6-7). Which is to say, “The loving person is a well-rounded, self-confident person but neither self-centered or egotistical.”
I disagree with those who say a low self-esteem is the biggest problem for people. From my somewhat limited knowledge of humanity–I know my own heart and several other people!–I believe more people struggle from inflated egos than otherwise. Their world revolves around themselves. Scripture has more to say about denying ourselves and humbling ourselves than about loving ourselves. God knows His creation.
But when the Lord Jesus Christ saves us and the Holy Spirit enters our lives we see ourselves as children of the Living God, and loved from the foundation of the world. And nothing gives us a healthier self-esteem than that!
The saying goes something like this: “A truly humble person does not go around thinking down on himself; he doesn’t think about himself at all.”
The reason all this is important: God has big work for you and me to do. And only the humble will agree to do it.
–Only the humble will drop to his knees and seek the face of God. The rest will be too proud for such.
–Only the humble can apologize to those he has wounded along the way and seek reconciliation. The rest will insist they were wronged and deserve an apology from others.
–Only the humble are willing to give sacrificially. The rest will feel they deserve the finer things in this life.
–Only the humble are willing to leave father and mother and go to the ends of the earth–or down the road a mile or two–to spread the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest will say they’re entitled to their own plans.
–Only the humble will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The rest will be willing to give the Lord the leftovers after they have used the strength and energy and resources the Lord grants them.
Only the humble will be in Heaven. The rest will be allowed to go their own way, the way which leads to destruction.