What is Humility?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 4, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson
A good place to start when trying to define a concept, such as humility, is to look at some definitions of the word itself. According to various dictionaries, humility can be defined as: a modest or low view of one's own importance, humbleness, modesty, meekness, or the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others. Humility is not necessarily seeing yourself as nothing, but rather not elevating yourself above others.

Why is humility important? Why shouldn't we all just go around telling each other how great we are? While there is a time and a place for such things (job interviews come to mind), the majority of the time we should keep a humble perspective.

In Matthew 19:28-20:16, Jesus gives a couple examples of humility and why it's important. First, in 19:28-30, He talks about those who are following Him in their lives on earth, and how that will affect their eternity. "You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel... But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Those who are first now (or the highest, most exalted, most important) will become last, and those who are last now (the lowest, the least significant) will become first.

Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the workers in the vineyard in 20:1-16. In this story, workers are hired at various times throughout the day, but all are given the same wages at the end of the day. While this seems unfair to those hired earliest, they did receive the pay they agreed to work for. Those who considered themselves the best (or the first) because they worked the longest were humbled, because those who only worked a short time received the same pay. Those who worked the shortest amount of time (the last) were exalted because they received greater pay per hour.

These two examples are all fine and good, but what does that mean for us today? Why should we consider being humble?

If you’re a disciple of Jesus, then you should strive to follow Him - see this post for more on that. Jesus lived the most humble life. Even his birth was humble - the fact that He came down from the glory of heaven to this earth to be in a human body like us was an action of complete humility. His birth in a manger, not even in a room at an inn, was also very humble (Luke 2:6-7). The fact that Jesus was willing to die a gruesome death on the cross for us shows His complete humility. All this can be summarized pretty well through Philippians 2:1-11 - go read it now.

But, I’m guessing in an average day of your life, you don’t have those opportunities to do what Jesus did. So what about humility in your average, everyday life? In 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter is writing to the elders of the church about how to take care of the people. He goes on in verses 5 and 6 to say, “ In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” God shows favor to those who humble themselves, and who wouldn’t want God’s favor on them?

We can show humility to God by showing humility to our fellow human beings. That doesn’t mean putting yourself down or considering yourself to be nothing; rather, it means to lift others up higher than yourself. Draw attention to the good others do rather than what you do. Encourage one another, and don’t boast of your own achievements. Romans 12:10 sums up humility by saying, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Humility is important to live out because it shows that we honor God with our lives. If we humble ourselves before others and before God, then God will lift us up. We may not experience that exaltation here on this earth, but it will happen in God’s timing. Even though it goes against our human nature, we need to have faith that humility is the right way to live, because that is how Jesus lived His life here on earth.