It’s amazing how Moses could say of himself, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Some people may doubt it, but what if it was really true? Maybe the secret to his ministry was simply his humility.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the contrast between humility and pride. While we’re familiar with what pride looks like, a humble person is someone who doesn’t boast or show off, but instead has a gentle and unassuming character. There is a lot to be said about the benefits of humility, so let’s look a little deeper.
Without humility, we cannot truly love, show kindness, or exercise self-control, because all of these attributes require us to put others before ourselves and submit to God’s will.
That sounds a bit limiting. We do well to be willing to cooperate with the leading of the Spirit and the maturity that grows with it. We grow in humility as we recognise and accept there are no absolutes in “humility-performance” where we have “arrived” – our actions demonstrate humility! Humility is foundational to character and is essential for us to be able to cultivate the other fruits of the Spirit in our lives.
Importantly, humility is also, like faith, a prerequisite for receiving the gifts of the Spirit, especially the working of miracles! Growing in humility is a lifelong process, and it will likely involve some setbacks and challenges along the way but with prayer, time, reflection, and a willingness to learn and grow, you can grow to be as humble as me! That’s probably unhelpful, but sometimes humour is helpful.
Let’s continue because there is more!
It’s easy to understand what humility means in its simplest form (and you probably know most, if not all of it.):
- Knowing that God is in control and trusting His plan for our lives and submitting to it.
- Recognizing that we are not perfect and have limitations – recognizing we are not the centre of the universe and that others are just as important as we are.
- Being kind to others and putting their needs before our own – This means being selfless and looking out for the well-being of others.
- Not bragging or thinking we’re better than others – avoiding pride and arrogance, which can lead to a sense of superiority over others. It means avoiding self-promotion and boasting.
- Forgiving others when they hurt us and not holding grudges – extending grace and compassion to others.
Humility is characterized by a modest and unassuming attitude, an acknowledgment of one’s own limitations, and a willingness to learn from others. The Apostle Paul demonstrated humility when he asserted, “I can do all things… through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13) It is a selfless attitude that is rooted in a recognition of God’s sovereignty and a willingness to submit to His will, valuing and serving others and seeking their well-being.
For anyone, but especially prophetic people humility is of infinite value, since it fosters deeper relationships, inner peace and a stronger sense of connection with God.
Now the mood music changes! Pride!
Pride is typically defined as an excessive sense of self-importance or superiority, often manifested in an inflated ego and a tendency to overvalue one’s own accomplishments or abilities. It is a form of self-centeredness that can lead to selfish behaviour, an unwillingness to admit one’s mistakes or faults, and a lack of empathy for others.
Pride often leads to negative consequences like conflict, jealousy, and a sense of isolation from others. When individuals are excessively prideful, they tend to value themselves over others, which can lead to a lack of respect for others’ feelings and opinions.
This, in turn, can create interpersonal tension and undermine relationships. Pride can also result in an unwillingness to admit one’s mistakes or seek help, leading to negative outcomes in personal and professional settings.
Pride never looks good – no matter how dressed,
While pride may offer some temporary benefits, it can ultimately lead to negative outcomes such as conflict and isolation.
This is where the distance between humility and pride is at its greatest. You could do an East West distance divide between them. The reason pride is so shortcoming is that pride can be equated with idolatry in that it involves putting something other than God at the centre of our lives. In effect, turning one’s back on God. Pride makes ourselves the centre of our universe, and in the ensuing idolatry, we then put something else, such as money, power or material possessions, in that position.
Pride also leads to a distortion of reality, as we begin to view ourselves or our possessions as the ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfilment, rather than recognizing that true fulfilment can only come from God.
Humility, on the other hand, involves acknowledging our dependence on God and submitting ourselves to his will. Humility involves recognizing our own limitations and imperfections and recognizing the value and worth of others.
Pride is not the only opposite of humility. Other opposites of humility include arrogance, self-righteousness, and self-centeredness.
- Arrogance involves an inflated sense of self-importance.
- Self-righteousness involves an attitude of moral superiority over others.
- Self-centeredness involves a focus on oneself and one’s own needs and desires, without regard for the needs and desires of others.
While these qualities may all stem from pride, they are distinct expressions of it.
In short: We are utterly dependant on God!
To cultivate humility in our lives, we must be willing to recognize our own limitations and our dependence on God. Likewise, we must be willing to put others’ needs and desires above our own and to recognize the value and worth of everyone, regardless of their status or achievements, as well as admitting our own faults and shortcomings and asking for forgiveness and growth from God.
The huge difference and distance between Pride and Humility make for interesting reading and serve as a warning and an encouragement to us:
1. Lucifer: In the book of Isaiah, Lucifer, also known as Satan, is described as a powerful angel who was created to serve God. However, he became prideful and rebelled against God, leading a third of the angels to fall with him. As a result of his pride, he was cast out of heaven and sentenced to eternal damnation (Isaiah 14:12-15).
2. King Nebuchadnezzar: In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar is a powerful and wealthy king who ruled over the Babylonian Empire. He had a dream that was interpreted by Daniel, which warned him of his prideful behaviour and his need to acknowledge God’s sovereignty. However, the king ignored the warning and became more prideful. As a result, he lost his sanity and was reduced to living like an animal until he finally humbled himself and acknowledged God’s power (Daniel 4:28-37).
3. Pharisees: The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders in the New Testament who were known for their pride and hypocrisy. They believed they were more righteous than others and looked down on those who they considered sinners. Their prideful behaviour led them to reject Jesus and his teachings, which ultimately resulted in their downfall (Matthew 23:1-39).
1. Jesus: The ultimate example of humility is Jesus himself. As the Son of God, he had every reason to be prideful, but he humbly submitted himself to the Father’s will and became a servant to all. His humility was exemplified in his willingness to die on the cross for the sins of humanity, despite being innocent. Jesus’ humility resulted in his exaltation by God and the salvation of all who believe in him (Philippians 2:5-11).
2. Mary: In the Gospel of Luke, Mary is described as a young woman who was chosen by God to bear his son, Jesus. Despite the extraordinary nature of this task, Mary humbly accepted it and proclaimed her willingness to serve God’s will. Her humility allowed her to play a vital role in God’s plan for salvation (Luke 1:38).
3. Joseph: Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was a humble and righteous man who trusted in God’s plan. When he learned Mary was pregnant, he was initially hesitant to marry her, but an angel appeared to him in a dream, and he humbly accepted God’s plan. Joseph’s humility allowed him to play a crucial role in Jesus’ upbringing and protection (Matthew 1:18-25).
Humility is primarily an attitude of the heart, and cultivating this attitude requires ongoing effort and practice and lots of years!
The following are a few of the ways that you can cultivate humility in your heart, the best starting block is prayer, asking God to stir your heart and lead you in his ways:
- Regularly studying and meditating on the Bible, which is full of examples of humility and the importance of cultivating this quality. Philippians 2:3-4 and Colossians 3:12 are epic verses.
- Making a conscious effort to think less about oneself and more about others, intentionally serving others and putting their needs before your own.
- Practicing self-reflection and regularly examining one’s own thoughts and attitudes (And reactive-reactions!)
- Seeking out feedback from others and being willing to accept constructive criticism – difficult, but it can be done.
- Cultivating gratitude and thankfulness. Taking time daily to reflect on God’s goodness and the many blessings in one’s life.
Humility is a vital character issue that helps us to become better people and to form stronger relationships with God and others. It’s not enough to just recognize the value of humility though; we need to intentionally and actively practice it in our daily lives. I urge you to be mindful of opportunities to demonstrate humility, and to reflect on your progress in doing so.
As for me, I’ll endeavour to keep reminding myself that its not all about me!