Stick with Humility
Bible Studies for Life
Humility may be one of the most misunderstood concepts of our day. Many equate humility with being a doormat; the kind of person one can step over (or on) at will. A humble person is a weak person, a person without a spine or strength. In a day of endless comic book movies and warring superheroes, humility does not seem to be a desired trait. Thor’s cosmic hammer to bust one’s enemies seems more apropos.
A Look at the Scriptures
One of the words translated “humility” in the Old Testament has carries the idea of meekness or modesty. The same word describes God’s gentleness (Proverbs 18:36). Humility is said to precede honor (Proverbs 15:33), and through humility and the fear of the Lord come riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22:4).
In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus Christ humbled Himself in obedience to His sacrificial, atoning death on the cross. Christ’s humility forms the pattern for our own humility. As Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (2:3-5, HCSB).
4 Brief Takeaways
There are four clear takeaways from this brief passage that will help us understand the place of humility in our lives: 1) Don’t be competitive spiritually, 2) Place others first, 3) Don’t ignore the concerns of others, and 4) Be like Jesus.
1. Don’t be competitive spiritually. Just recently, the National Football League held their annual combines. During this phase of a college player’s journey into the professional ranks, every possible physical ability is measured: the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, long jump, passing, receiving, and other skills. Players compete against the clock, but also against each other. Teams rely on this competition in their evaluation of potential draftees.
Sometimes we bring that same kind of competitiveness into our spiritual lives. We want our light to shine, but too often in a way that merely gets people to brag on us. The spiritual life is one of humility, not rivalry, conceit, or pride.
2 Place others first. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is not the quaint suggestion of a nondescript first-century rabbi. It is a measure given from the Son of God Himself. Not only should we love others, we should consider them as more important than ourselves! Wow! Not just think of them or consider them, but in the relational evaluation they are above us. No wonder God’s word tells us to be humble. Without humility we cannot obey this text.
3. Don’t ignore the concerns of others. This is a very practical idea. When we see someone in need, a homeless person, a struggling single parent, a child with too small a coat against the cold, or a recently unemployed member of our Bible study group, we cannot ignore those needs. Humility calls us to serve those in need.
4. Adopt the attitude of Jesus. Paul continues in Philippians 2:7, 8: “Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death —even to death on a cross.” If humility and servanthood fit our Savior, then they fit us as well.
“Paul wasn’t suggesting that you ignore your own needs or stifle your own interests. It’s good to tend to your dreams and responsibilities–just don’t do it to the exclusion of others or at their expense. Work to meet the needs of others in addition to your own.”1
1- Bible Studies for Life, Like Glue, Ben Mandrell (emphasis in original)