Recently I got into a conversation with a colleague while driving to a meeting with other pastors. The topic turned to “humility.”
We both agreed that, generally speaking, many people have a misunderstanding about what being humble means. Many think being humble means groveling in front of others, or thinking “I” am no good and others are better.
Biblically speaking, that understanding is quite flawed. If the Scriptures call us to be humble persons, why would God expect us to grovel or think less of ourselves? That doesn’t make sense, does it?
Rather, according to a Biblical understanding, when you are humble, you are free from pride and the sense of superiority. It means you understand that you are not perfect, that in some areas you are inadequate – and that it’s OK. It means relying on God to provide what you cannot.
Godly humility is being comfortable with who you are in the Lord and therefore put others first. The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others, not someone who is a pushover.
The best example of humility in action is Jesus himself. Although he was the son of God, he was gentle and humble. He was strong in character. He knew who he was. He knew his mission in life. He loved people, fed them, healed them, taught them. Never once did he say in arrogance, “I am the greatest! Look at me!” Never once did he say in shame, “I can’t do that. I’m no good.”
Jesus knew who he was. He did nothing out of self-interest. Everything he did was for others.
The apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Philippi: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 NRSV)
Humility recognizes that you need God’s help, knowing you can’t truly succeed in your own strength. It is thanking God for your talents and gifts, and giving him credit for your accomplishments.
It is being comfortable with who you are in Jesus Christ and seeking to build up others, not yourself. It is gratefully walking in God’s love, grace and forgiveness.
When you understand what the Bible says about humility, you know who you are in Christ. You can walk humbly in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, not in your own strength.
There is much to learn. I’ll share a bit more in my next column. (With thanks to Doug Britton for his insights on this topic)
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.