Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
When Jesus taught his disciples new rules for life, he made some people really wonder if he had gone mad. His teaching often got him into trouble, especially when his words clashed with the religious establishment. They did not like to be challenged or made out to be wrong.
But one day he said, “Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Another meaning is happy are those who are humble. If we mention the word ‘meek’ we usually associate it with words like ‘having no backbone’ or ‘a pushover’. Or with someone who is shy and apologetic, over-modest or who gets treated like a doormat.
But that’s not really as it is. Meekness is a poised humility, a quiet confidence generated out of trusting something to be true. And the Christian life offers something strong and true, a guide for life that is strong and stable.
The two extremes we could be in
The Bible tells us this in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”. Some people don’t like hearing that because they think humbling themselves leaves them open to ridicule of being weak. Maybe you’ve said to yourself, I don’t need that teaching—I have enough personality and talent to make it through life on my own. I can look after myself, and can achieve my ambitions and make a difference in the world.” You don’t need this humility stuff.
Or, on the other hand, in your eyes you don’t amount to much. You wonder why you were born, and think that other people are more gifted and talented than you are.
They are two extremes. One is the danger of pride, where we hunger for recognition and we want to be valued by others. Because we want the acceptance of others, we focus on who we are, and put up an image that can be full of pride, arrogance and conceit.
Pride can eat away at our soul like termites, and the Bible is full of warnings about self-promotion. If we put our own interests above the interests of others, our family, friends, neighbours, strangers, then pride is getting in the way and we don’t know much about true humility. Pride keeps us from knowing the truth about ourselves and how much we need God in our lives, and how much we need each other. C.S. Lewis used to say, “if you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed”. And religious people can be very proud.
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Jesus, our model of humility
Being a Christian is all about following Jesus, the one who laid down his life for us. It is all about knowing him, trusting and obeying him, and becoming like him. We need to understand the humility of Jesus. He said:
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jesus was a real man who had plenty of fire and courage—he wasn’t a soft wuss of a guy. He cleaned the temple out with a whip and told the religious leaders they were a nest of snakes. His humility didn’t mean he was passive and always softly spoken.
St Augustine said, “For those who would learn God’s ways, humility is the first thing, the second thing, and humility is the third thing”. Peter said in his epistle:
Serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Did you know that Almighty God has commended humility and delights to see it in his people? The Prophet Isaiah says:
The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: ‘I live in that high and holy place where those with contrite, humble spirits dwell; and I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts” (Isaiah 57:15).
To be humble means to recognise we are not self-sufficient, rather that we depend on God for all we need. All we have comes from him: our lives, our salvation, our hope, our strengths and abilities. Everything is given by God and nothing is our own.
In Part 2, I want to have another look at this, especially to see the humility of Jesus and how his words can change our concept of humility.
(To be continued in A Lesson in Humility – Part 2)