We Have Lost Our Humility and Therefore Our Honor
Humility: A word that means different things to different people. For some it is a wonderful character quality, to others a sign of weakness. What determines which way you should believe is what God says about humility! Before we find out, some definitions are helpful. From Webster’s New Riverside Dictionary: “marked by modesty or meekness; respectively deferential.” The New Compact Bible Dictionary: “freedom from pride; lowliness; meekness; modesty; mildness.” The New Living Translation Concordance: “to not think too highly of oneself.”
My own definition is thus: Knowing who you are in relation to who God is. You can be confident but not cocky. You can celebrate the gifts God has given you without being overly apologetic. In essence it is the opposite of pride.
Let me illustrate with three examples. The first is if I were to say that I am the greatest Bible teacher you will ever hear. This is obviously pride. A second example is if I say, “I don’t know why anyone would even want to show up and hear me speak and read anything I write.” At first glance you might think it is a humble statement, but it is actually false humility. What I mean is if God has given me or you any gifting, to talk like it is nothing is a trap. Instinctively people will say, “Oh Bob, no, you are a fine teacher, don’t say that about yourself.” This false humility makes people feel bad for you and creates a situation where you get an abundance of self affirming compliments.
A third example is if I say that God has blessed me with certain gifts of communication and teaching and with His help I know what I say will bless others. This is humility and goes back to my definition of knowing who you are in relation to who God is.
As I have studied the concept of humility I realize it is a powerful word and a life affirming character quality. For openers the Bible says in Proverbs 3:34 and later restated in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, “He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Think just about this one verse. God actual comes against prideful people and in a mysterious way gives grace or his special power to humble individuals.
Jesus clearly defines the importance of humility. In a story in Luke 14:7-11 he says when invited to an event, don’t immediately go to the best table, because someone more important than you might show up and you are told to sit somewhere else. Instead, Jesus tells us when we come to sit unnoticed. This way the host might tell you to sit at the head table, so then you are lifted up in front of others. Jesus conclusion is “For the proud will be humbled, but the humbled will be honored.”
The Bible says much more about how amazing humility is. It gives us wisdom (Proverbs 11:2), and in addition to honor, gives us riches and life (Proverbs 22:4). The most famous verse in Micah tells us that humility is one of the three main requirements of the Lord for correct living. “No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Think of people you admire. I would be willing to wager that most of those people were humble servants. They may have been in positions of power and influence, but always wanting to lift others up and to serve.
As an observer of the church, our country, and society as a whole, I have seen in this past year an abundance of pride displayed in politicians, preachers, and just regular everyday Christians. If I am honest, sometimes I feel I have also been part of the pride parade.
Christians have judged each other on such things as not voting for the “right” candidate, like they know who God really wants elected; declaring that we are sure what a person of a different race or ethnicity is feeling or should feel, but in reality have no idea what it is like to be in their skin; or stating with authority about the pandemic, when we have no medical background.
This, my friends, is pride at work. I have seen it more so in 2020 than in any year in memory. Prophetic people declare that God has shown them the future and question anyone to dispute their utterance. When their prognostication does not come to fruition, we either hear nothing or a disclaimer that the prophecy really meant something else. It is a convenient way to avoid responsibility.
I, for one, am very careful to “speak for God” because it carries a heavy burden, that of trust and credibility. I also want to be careful on what I teach because Scripture tells me that teachers carry a stricter judgment (James 3:1).
But my pastoral counsel is we must get back to what it means to be humble servants. So if I had a prayer for the church in 2021, it would be to ask for a humble heart, wisdom and discernment, and not just parrot what some prophet or leader declares. Remember, “Pride ends in destruction; humility ends in honor” (Proverbs 18:12). Church let us find our humility again and become the salt and light the world desperately needs to see.