‘God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient’ (Colossians 3:12 – GNB).
The Macquarie Dictionary defines humility as having a ‘modest sense of one’s own significance’.
Twentieth-century Christian thinker and author C S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: ‘As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you’ (Book III Christian Behaviour 8. The Great Sin).
Christians know the importance of humility. We learn it well from the teachings and life of our master. Jesus says, ‘Servants are not greater than their master’ (John 13:16). He commands, ‘Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit and you will find rest’ (Matthew 11:29). In Lent we sing of him: ‘Christ humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).
Such humility is a hallmark of saving faith. It cannot be contrived. It is the opposite of the inverted pride of an inferiority complex.
It is not perverted self-interest, which Charles Dickens depicted so well in his novel David Copperfield through the sycophantic toadying of Uriah Heep.
You can’t inveigle your way into the kingdom through pretence or artifice. Those who try to manipulate Christianity for personal gain or aggrandisement will reach a dead-end soon enough.
Genuine humility is truly liberating. The humble know who they truly are and who God truly is. It frees us from the need to pretend.
We have no points to score against others, as though we could look down on them. We can now afford to be graceful, generous people, considering others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). If the truth of the gospel in which we believe teaches us anything, it is surely the liberating gift of true humility. This is our first lesson in Christian living.
For, as C S Lewis reminds us, faith causes us to look up, not down. And when we look up, we see our Saviour in glory, and all of God’s saints called to be with him, raised to life from the most unexpected places. Somewhat surprisingly, we see ourselves among them. Thanks be to God!
For the king of heaven is also the Saviour who placed himself beneath us, as our humble servant. And as he rises from the grave, so we are raised with him in his resurrection and ascension. This happens only because he embraces us, undeserved, with his love.
Yet even so, we struggle to be genuinely humble.
Just like the world, we too easily interpret humility as weakness and fall into the trap of favouring the proud and successful.
We can be deceived into thinking that pursuing personal gain is the way to go. So, it’s all the more important that we return to Jesus our master every day and every week, to flush out all that pride, take up his easy but humble yoke, and follow the way of the cross. As truly God and truly human, Jesus Christ put the needs of others ahead of his own. That’s why he is your Saviour. Thanks be to God!