What is Humility in the Bible


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The word “humility” is one that the church throws around a lot. Since we live in an ego-centric and catty world, it’s a characteristic that our society doesn’t deem as important. Therefore it’s very difficult to even know what humility is and how to be humble. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our society isn’t interested in humility, rather it encourages selfish ambition. We’re focused on our own value, ability, possessions, control and worth. Then, when we encounter someone else who appears to be better than us or has what we think we want, we treat them maliciously. It’s a horrifying reality of our human nature and the pain it causes is consuming.

The scriptures highlight the spiritual attribute of humility pretty heavily. Not only has God called us to be humble in spirit, humility is a reflection of His character. But how are we to emulate humility when we can’t even see it in our community to mirror or mimic?  

Naturally, Jesus is the epitome of humility. Rather than examining the entire New Testament, take a look at Philippians 2: 3-11 to understand what it is to be humble. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philipians 2: 3-11

Humility in the Bible is Not Selfish

Philippians 2:3 starts out by saying, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” Ambition is ingrained so deeply into the very fabric of our culture that it seems impossible to separate ourselves. Ambition is an earnest desire to achieve something, usually power, honor, fame or wealth. Having ambition is having the drive to strive for something. But when we place our own desires and intentions ahead of others, and the Lord, ambition no longer becomes benevolent, it becomes barbaric. When our ambition becomes our primary goal, we begin to lack compassion for others and are willing to push them aside so we can accomplish what we set out to do. This is rather pompous, conceited and selfish. 

Rather than aspiring for power, honor, fame or wealth, humility means we should aspire for God. This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to aspire to BE HIM, we’re supposed to aspire FOR Him. Desire to have Him as the center of our world, rather than ourselves. It’s choosing to see His ways as greater than our own. It’s giving Him control of our lives and trusting Him to lead and guide us. By taking our selfish characteristic out of the picture, we then just become ambitious for God. Not conceited and confined by the world. 

Humility Places Others First

When we feel the yearning to be catty or jealous of what someone else has, we are placing our desires above that of others. Philippians 2: 3 continues by saying, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” You are not the center of the universe, the sun isn’t even the center of the universe, and God created it as a tiny yellow dot in an ever expanding macrocosm. 

So rather than seeing your worth and value as more significant than anyone else, choose to see other people the way God sees them. All of His creation is beautiful, magnificent and astounding – yes, you too! But, humility involves seeing the significance of other people and placing their value above your own. We are all made in God’s image and it’s invigorating to see God’s reflection in other people. But, we can’t see His reflection if we aren’t looking for it. 

Humility Sees the Interests of Others

God gave you awesome and fun interests, and we should enjoy these interests. However, they should not consume our lives. In the book of Philippians, Paul continues to write about humility by saying, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We don’t always have to have our way and we don’t need to surround ourselves with people who only share the same interests as ours. 

We live in a huge world with a lot of diversity. If we remain confined to our own interests, we will have a very small perspective of reality. By exposing ourselves to the interests of others, we’re able to see and experience the bigger picture in which God operates. Placing the interests of others above our own interests goes back to placing others first. It’s setting our own ambition aside, so someone else can be elevated above us. It’s not about focusing on our own success, but the success and ability of those around us. 

Humility Serves Others

We must think of ourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He is God, yet He acted like a servant. He was always placing others first. This was a constant demonstration of His love and compassion for us. As Phillipians states, “He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” Jesus didn’t just serve others before He served Himself. He just simply served, never looking for anything in return. He did this to show us how we are to treat others. 

Humility is Obedient

Humility is being obedient to God. It is following His direction and intention for our lives. Again Jesus is a great demonstration of what it is to be obedient. As Phillipians 2: 8 says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” There are plenty of things we would rather do than follow God, but to act humbly, we must obey God even when we don’t want to. To obey our parents, teachers, coaches, leaders and authority is to obey God. Obedience is setting our own personal desires, agenda and motives aside to follow someone else’s direction. 

Jesus Christ is Lord

The Philippians scripture closes by bringing the point back to Christ. We will never understand humility to the scope of Jesus. But, by proclaiming the truth that He is Lord, we can better understand what it is to be humble. 

Humility in the Bible Acknowledges the Truth

Humility is ACCURATELY acknowledging the truth about yourself. The truth is that we are sinners YET children of God. Humility includes acknowledging our strengths in due proportion. It would be false humility to negate the gifts God has given us.

We Should Be Humble

If our society doesn’t deem humility as important, then why take the effort to go against the flow of society to be humble? The answer, “Because God told us to” is never going to cut it when it comes to a culture that is pushing God further away. Our obedience to God, however, is essential in maintaining a sound relationship with Him. 

As Christians, we will always feel out of touch with socieity because God is calling us to be so much more than our culture can offer. He has given us eternal life, we should not limit ourselves to the miniscule attractions of this world.  By being humble, we place ourselves in a vulnerable state. This can actually draw attention from those who do not believe. Therefore, humility can become a significant allure of a culture that pushes it away. People who do not follow God can become very intrigued and curious about this incredible characteristic. 

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