Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What does it mean to be humble in Christ?

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all. ~William Temple

Swallow your pride occasionally, it's non-fattening! ~Author Unknown

A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle. ~Benjamin Franklin

It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. ~Author Unknown

None are so empty as those who are full of themselves. ~Benjamin Whichcote

These are some great quotes, but lets get serious about this issue of humility. What does it really mean for us to be humble?

Webster defines humility this way: -not proud or arrogant; modest; having a feel of insignificance; low in rank or status; courteously respectful.

Now lets look at 1 Peter 5:5-7 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

So between the definition of humility and what the passage says, what does that mean for us? How do we know if we are really living in a humble way that would please God?

Lets first say what it does not mean:
*It does not mean putting yourself down or seeing yourself as inferior to others.
*It does not mean seeing yourself as not valuable, or denying who you are in Christ.
*It does not mean you cannot accept praise from others, it just means that you know that what you are being praised for is attributed to God at work within you, and not your own doing.
*It does not mean denying our strengths, but being willing to accept our weaknesses.

What it does mean is:
* Do not consider ourselves better than others.
* Do not see ourselves through the eyes of worldly standards, but through Christ.
* Do use our spiritual gifts to serve God, but remember to give Him all the credit.
* Love ourselves, but accept that we are not perfect, and are in need of a Savior.

But most importantly, it means living by the truth, and knowing that only God is in control of our lives and everything in the universe, and that without Him, we are of no value. Our value comes through Him, not through our own doing.

It is so easy to take credit for the things that are good in life. For example, we do great on a project at work, and feel proud of the hard work we put into it. We see our children walking in faith or doing great at a sport or hobby, and feel proud of them. We have a nice house, nice car, and a neatly landscaped yard, and feel proud to have those things.

But do we deserve to be proud? Would we have done a great job on a project, without the good health, intelligence and skills that God has given us? Would we have children who love the Lord, if He had not first forgiven us and embraced us into His family so that we could teach others to love Him? Would our children be great athletes, musicians, students, etc., if it were not for the gifts that God had created in them? Would we have any "things", if God had not chosen to bless us with those things?

All questions have the same answer - NO.

The key to humility, is simply remembering who gets the credit. Being proud is not sinful, but instead it is the act of pridefulness in ourselves that the problems begin.

Thinking too highly of ourselves, our accomplishments, and our successes, is setting us us to be a target for the enemy. Satan loves for us to think that we are "all that". Why would we need God, if we can do it all on our own? Why would we need faith, if we seemed to be succeeding in life just fine because of all we do? Those are the lies that begin seeping into our hearts when we begin to put ourselves on a pedestal, instead of bowing at the feet of the One who gave us everything.

Being humble does not have to seem like a sacrifice, or that we are succumbing to inferiority. It can also be a joy. Seeing the fruits of our humility is what will really motivate us to remain humble. For example, humility preserves peace, instead of conflict; humility considers the needs of others first, before our own; humility allows us to forgive those who have hurt us, instead of allowing unforgiveness to poison our thoughts; humility gives us the inner strength to turn the other cheek, when someone deserves a slap on the cheek instead.

Humility means we are reconciled to God, and willing to put everything in His hands, instead of our own.

Humility characterizes Christ. If you think about it, Jesus never once acted as if He were better than anyone else, or smarter, wiser, more prestigious - even though He was!

He was God in the flesh, but lived out the daily life of a human. A life filled with the hurts of being rejected, criticized, and doubted, even though He did not deserve it. A life without glamour, prestige, or honor, even though He so deserved it.

So to me, humility is simply love. Love that is not selfish or hurtful. Love that does not boast. Love that does not withhold affection or intimacy. Love that considers the feelings of others. Love that is willing to be wrong, even if one is right. Love that is stronger than the harshest words or treatments from others. Love that only comes from God, not from our own heart.

So how do we become humble? Humility has its basis in an honest and realistic comparison of us with God. If we compare ourself to other people, then we will always see the flaws of others and feel better than them, despite our own weaknesses.

Our goal should be to compare ourselves with Christ, and be in His image, not the image of others.

When we compare ourselves to Christ, we can obviously see how much we are terribly lacking in true significance and value. When we do that, we see ourselves for we really are, and any inkling of pride gets immediately thrown right out of the window.

Pride has no place in Gods kingdom, because arrogance turns people off. When people are turned off, they are not open to seeing God at work or seeing Gods light shine through those people who are acting arrogantly. For a Christian, pridefulness is a dangerous thing, because it can lead people away from Christ, instead of towards Him.

Lets face it, comparing ourselves to Jesus is a great opportunity for a serious attitude adjustment. It reminds us that we are empty, weak, and helpless - but that we are filled with hope in knowing that we are strong, and valuable through Christ within us, and that we are precious and priceless because of who He is.

Our level of humility can sometimes set the tone of our relationship with Christ. It is an outward symbol of our inward opinion of who we are versus who Christ is - and ultimately who we are in Christ.

So stand proud in your faith and know that God made you valuable and amazing - but always remember that our actions are not to portray arrogance or superiority, because in the whole scheme of life - we are all very small. But in Gods Kingdom, we are exalted.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)

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Joyful said...

Tracie, I love the verse in Psalm 115 that says, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory..."

The Lord really worked on a pride issue in my life last year. Humility was my focus for 2008. I still remember one week when wherever I turned around I saw the word 'pride' printed somewhere...right down to the paper cup my take-out coffee came in at the hockey arena. Can you believe a paper coffee cup said, "pride" right across it? It was kind of funny! God was definitely getting my attention and making His point!

There's a song on a CD I have here with lyrics that say, "Every good thing I have done, Everything that I've become, Everything that's turned out right is because You're in my life, And if I ever teach a child the way, Ever learn myself to change, Ever become who I want to be, it's not the I but the You in me."

All because of Him and for Him,

Angie said...

Humility allows us to forgive those who have hurt us, instead of allowing unforgiveness to poison our thoughts; humility gives us the inner strength to turn the other cheek, when someone deserves a slap on the cheek instead.

This is something I needed to hear. To be able to forgive someone who has hurt me, when the hurt goes so deep.

I pray for this type of humility so that I can remove the seeds of unforgivness that Satan has planted in my heart.