What is Humility?1
In the previous article we looked at the essence of pride. We now turn to humility. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at the essence of pride. We now turn to humility. The easy answer to our question would simply be to embrace the opposite of each of the seven characteristics of pride. Yes, by all means do that! But let me put a bit more substance to the concept of humility. Again, let me mention 7 features of true humility.
(1) An essential element in humility is the willingness to allow others to say about me in public the very things I readily acknowledge before God in private.
(2) The key to humility is a sincere and passionate acknowledgement of and submission to the sovereign grace of God. In 1 Cor. 4:7, Paul writes: “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Humility should always be in direct proportion to one’s grasp of grace. Pride is the fruit of the lie that what I have I didn’t receive. Humility is the fruit of the truth that everything is of God (see also John 3:22-30, esp. vv. 27 and 30).
(3) Perhaps most of all, humility is being like Jesus: “I am gentle and lowly [or humble] in heart” (Mt. 11:29; Phil. 2:5-11). The measure of Christ’s humility was his “compassion” (Col. 3:12a). Proud people don’t love the unlovely very well. The measure of your humility is the degree to which you happily embrace the unembraceable, touch the untouchable, and love the unlovable. Humility is measured by how you treat those who can do nothing to advance your cause.
(4) The truly humble person is devastated by the smallest expression of depravity but nearly oblivious to great progress in goodness and obedience.
The truly humble person is always looking not at what he/she has attained, even if it be by divine grace, but at the goal for which his/her soul is striving. The truly humble person does not evaluate himself by what he has already achieved, but by what he is still aiming for. Therefore his holiness and maturity will always appear small because it is compared with where he’s going, not where he’s been.
What stuns his soul is not that he loves God much but that one who is truly a child of God does not love God more. And if he does compare himself with others in this regard, he is gracious toward them and hard on himself. It’s as if he can only see what they are like outwardly all the while he sees what he himself is inwardly.
(5) The truly humble person does indeed make great progress in the knowledge of God, but with that spiritual growth comes an increase in our knowledge of our sin and how vast is the discrepancy between what we know and what we ought to know, between what we love and ought to love.
The point is that as we grow in grace and knowledge and love of God it simply serves to shine an even brighter light on our corruption and failure to properly honor God. When the humble person does recognize progress and purity in his life, he’s truly stunned by it.
(6) The truly humble person will never consider any act to be beneath his dignity. Even if the act brings him lower than he has ever experienced before, he will always regard it as higher than he deserves. My spiritual mentor Russ McKnight, now with the Lord, when asked how he was doing, typically responded by saying: “Better than I deserve!” Knowing who and what we are apart from divine, saving grace, and knowing that the only thing God owes us is death and condemnation, is the soil in which the flower of genuine humility successfully grows.
(7) True humility is never noisy, especially about itself. If you are inclined to say, "No one is as sinful and depraved as I am," be careful that you don't think yourself better than others on this very account. Be careful lest you develop a high opinion of your humility. In essence, if you find yourself thinking often of your humility, it is likely that you have little of it.
Such is pride. Such is humility. But why should we care? Why is it so important to Peter and the other biblical authors? And why should it be important to us? Peter now provides four reasons. We’ll look at each of them in the next article.