Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b)
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
I have, for the last few months, focused in this column on the fundamentals of our Christian faith. Agape love of God and everyone He loves is our litmus test of faith and character. Without it, we are nothing, have nothing, and gain nothing. Our daily life mission is, through the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, to show forth this agape love as witnesses to the goodness and will of God so perfectly revealed in His Son Jesus Christ.
Today we continue our focus on fundamentals with this biblical truth: humility is a Kingdom essential.
Humility and respect for humility have become the exception rather than the rule in modern America. Both are notably absent in our politics, media, sports, entertainment, and, most tragically, much of our public Christian witness. I see two primary reasons for this. First, we do not understand what humility really is. Second, we do not appreciate how important humility is to God.
The best way to initially understand humility and its importance to God is by contrasting it to its opposite: arrogance and pride. The Book of Proverbs says God hates pride and arrogance. (8:13) Pride and a haughty spirit lead to disgrace and destruction. (11:2, 16:18) Haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamp of the wicked and sin. (21:4)
Both Jesus and Peter affirmed these truths about pride, as set forth above. And Paul added the warning that, particularly in the last days, there would be people showing “the appearance of godliness” who would instead be “lovers of self”, “proud, arrogant, abusive”, “slanderous”, and “swollen with conceit”. (2 Timothy 3:2-5) Paul cautioned us to avoid such people.
The phrase “lover of self” is the key to understanding pride. Pride is self-centeredness, self-rule, self-exaltation, self-indulgence, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance. A proud person may do something that is good for someone else, or even something that seems godly, but only so long as it is also good for him or her. The minute there is a difference between what is good for others and what is good for the proud, the proud will choose themselves.
For this reason, Psalm 40:4 says we are not to respect or turn in trust to the proud for leadership. They are destined to disgrace and destruction, and God does not want us to follow them there.
And for this reason, Jesus declared those who follow Him must deny their self, take up their cross daily, and let Him lead them. (Luke 9:23)
This brings us to the ultimate lesson of humility: our Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 2 provides an extraordinary description of how we are to embrace the humility of Jesus, putting the interests of others first, and how His consummate humility and sacrifice led to His glorification. Likewise, Jesus tells us those who are last and servant to all will be first. (Mark 9:35) Those who humble themselves before God like little children will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)
Some may be concerned that humility is also timidity and weakness in a time when we need boldness and strength. But Jesus was humble, and never timid or weak. Moses was humbler than anyone on earth when he led the Hebrew people out of Egyptian bondage. (Numbers 12:3) In both cases it was their humility: God-centered, selfless, loving focus on the interests of others, which led to glory and greatness.
Others may be concerned that humility equates to tolerance of the ever-increasing sin we see all around us. But Jesus came for sinners and sends us to do the same. (Matthew 9:10-13; John 20:21) Love and humility, while holding on to integrity, is what draws people to Jesus. (John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4)
My friends, our Lord calls us to greatness as the Body of Christ. We are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16); to love like God loves (Matthew 5:48, Romans 5:5); to be transformed into Christlikeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18); to do the works of Jesus, and even greater works (John 14:12); and to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
But we will never achieve that greatness for the glory of God until we and those we choose to follow clothe ourselves with humility. Humility is a Kingdom essential.
God bless you, and God bless our community.