Welcome to the ‘Thought for the Week’ column where we will be discussing the subject of Humility. We will be looking at this subject for the next two weeks. I pray that God will speak to you through his Word as we explore this subject in our discussion.
The idea of humility was not popular in the ancient world. Humility to people meant subservience, slavery. Today we have not progressed beyond that same misconception. Most of us are not complimentary of people who are humble. We equate humility with being timid, reticent, retiring, and soft. A humble person is regarded as being easy to persuade or push around.
This is not the biblical view at all. Humility is a grace; it cannot be achieved in our own strength. Humility is given to us by God. It is an outgrowth of our relationship with him.
The writer of Proverbs tells us about humility in the day-to-day affairs of life. “When you remove corrupt men from the king’s court, his reign will be just and fair. Don’t demand an audience with the king as though you were some powerful prince. It is better to wait for an invitation rather than to be sent back to the end of the line, publicly disgraced! Just as it is harmful to eat too much honey, so also it is bad for a person to think about all the honours they deserve! A man without self-control is as defenceless as a city with broken down walls” (Prov. 25:5-7, 27, 28).
This passage closely parallels Luke 14, where Jesus tells us about a man who went to a wedding feast. The first thing that he did was to sit down beside the guest of honour. His action said, “I am more important than others. This is where I belong.” The host has to go over to him and say, “Friend, would you mind moving to the foot of the table?” Jesus said it is better if we sit at the foot of the table and then are invited to come to the place of honour. Why? “For everyone who tries to honour himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honoured” (Luke 14:11).
There is a humility that is desirable, wise, and not pretentious. Its opposite is the wrong kind of pride. Not all pride is evil. We should take pride in the way we appear to others and in the way we conduct ourselves. However, we should not have a sense of pride that is overbearing and overwhelming to those around us. That is the opposite of the humility that God gives.
Many of us today have a misapplied pride. It is not wrong for us to want to be noticed or to achieve, or to have a deep desire to belong. What is desperately wrong today is that many of us use shabby means of achieving those desires and so cheapen the desire itself.
Everyone wants to get ahead of the next person. Everyone wants to achieve mere than others. Wallace Hamilton once said that if all the automobile drivers in the United States were lined up bumper to bumper along the highway, 95 percent of them would pull out to pass. We are on a merry-go-round of success. We try to achieve something desirable in undesirable ways. We seem to forget that they only way we can truly achieve success is for God to be himself in us. We must let God make us what we cannot be in ourselves.
As we read Proverbs we cannot escape the fact that it has a lot to say about pride, the opposite of true humility. The pointers given there are not for us to use to check up on others, but to check ourselves.
One way pride shows itself is in arrogance. The man in Proverbs 25:5-7 barges into the presence of the king as though he belonged at his right hand, assuming that his importance is significant enough that he can demand a place of great prestige. That’s arrogance.
We also find arrogance in pushiness of pride in the mocker. “Mockers are proud, haughty and arrogant” (Prov.21:24). A mocker disdains everyone else. To him the whole world is wrong and he is right. Everyone else is out of step but him. He has no humility.
Another expression of pride is contention or strife. “Pride leads to arguments, be humble, take advice and become wise” (Prov.13:10). Jesus Christ came to save us from our foolish pride. Yet pride is the most devastating force used by Satan to work against the church. All across the world today he causes contention, strife, and confusion in fellowship of God’s people. Whenever people believe they have had a deeper experience than anyone else, or a more biblical on, their pride causes contentions that sweep across a community and tear down the church of God.
Still another fruit of pride is shame and embarrassment. “Proud people end in shame, but the meek become wise” (Prov. 11:2). Ultimately a proud person is going to be ashamed. He will realise his error and wish to God that he could unravel the web of his life. When he realises what he has done with the life God left in his care, he will weep.
Summarising all of these expression of pride, the Bible tells us that it is sinful. “Pride, lust, and evil actions are all sin” (Prov. 21:4). The list of seven things that God hates (Prov. 6:17) includes pride. In fact, we are told, “Pride disgusts the Lord. Take my word for it, proud men shall be punished” (Prov. 16:5).
Pride’s end is destruction. “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before fall” (Prov. 16:18). “Pride ends in destruction; humility ends in honour” (Prov. 18:12). The man who is proud and arrogant, who believes himself to be something he is not, will fall. “So be careful. If you are thinking, ‘Oh, I would never behave like that’- let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea