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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Columnist: Akpene Sabah

Everyone wants to be humble; nobody wants to be humbled!

Do you really mean it or better still even understand it? What comes to mind when you hear the word ”humility?” When you say, a person is really humble or I am a humble person”, what do you mean?

Humility is a spiritual trait that few Christians have on an ongoing basis because it is impossible to obtain it through the flesh. Humility only comes when a Christian surrenders his or her life to the Lord every day.

The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. The Greek word translated “humility” in Colossians 3:12 literally means “lowliness of mind,” This makes humility a HEART ATTITUDE and not merely an outward demeanour.

One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Being poor in spirit means that only those who recognise that they are absolutely bankrupt of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. In other words, humility is essential for the Christian.

Humility is a trait that makes a person recognise that they lack merit and are completely incapable of saving themselves. As believers, when the mercy and grace of God is offered, we accept it in humble gratitude and commit our lives to Him and to others.

We “die to self” so that we can live as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We never ever forget that He has exchanged our worthlessness for His infinite worth, our sin for His righteousness, and the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). That is true humility.

1 Peter 5:5 makes it pretty clear that we are responsible for putting on the garment of humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. If you honour humility, humility will exalt and favour you, do for you what others can only wish would be done for them.

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honour (Prov. 29:23) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and before honour is humility (Prov. 15:33) Before destruction, the heart of a man is haughty and before honour is humility (Prov. 18:12). When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom (Prov. 11:2).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Col. 3:12). A lot of the time, many a people continuously profess that they are humble, but do we really mean it or even understand what it really means or what it takes to be humble? A preacher once made this assertion which I find very interesting and at the same time true. He said, ‘a poor man will continue to say he is humble, but let that same person come by wealth (money) and let’s see if that same person will remain same as he was. If he does, than one can confidently say, indeed this one is humble.’

Biblical humility is not only necessary to enter the kingdom; it is also necessary to be great in the kingdom (Matthew 20:26-27). Here Jesus is our model. Just as He did not come to be served, but to serve, so must we commit ourselves to serving others in all lowliness of mind, always considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This attitude precludes selfish ambition, conceit, and the strife that comes with self-justification and self-defense. The truly humble does not defend himself when falsely accused or unjustly treated. He defends the truth, but not his own ego or reputation. Jesus was not ashamed to humble Himself as a servant (John 13:1-16), even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). In His humility, He was always obedient to the Father and so should the humble Christian be willing to put aside all selfishness and submit in obedience to God and His Word. True humility produces godliness, contentment, and security.

Pride on the other hand is the opposite of humility. There are many biblical examples of pride and its consequences in the lives of individuals that offer valuable lessons for our own lives. One notable example is that of King Uzziah. When he became king of Judah at age sixteen, he set his heart to seek God and put himself under the spiritual mentorship of Zechariah. And “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper”. As a result, he became wealthy and also became politically and militarily powerful. Then things changed. “His fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:1–16).

What happened? Someway, somehow, sometime along the way, King Uzziah stopped seeking the Lord and the spiritual mentorship of Zechariah. This suggested a lessening dependence on God and a growing reliance upon himself and his own strength and wisdom. History shows at every point in time, how easy it is for pride to set in and increase as we become stronger, more successful, more prosperous, and more recognized in our endeavours.

We may be privy to countless stories of people who descended from ‘grace to grass’ because of pride. In fact, anything, real or imagined, that elevates us above others can be a platform for pride. Ironically, this is true even when these things come as a result of God’s blessings.

As a result of all his blessings, Uzziah, rather than humbling himself in thanksgiving to God, began to think more highly of himself than he should have and developed an exaggerated sense of his own importance and abilities. This pride of heart led to presumption before God and brought very serious consequences upon him, illustrating the biblical warnings that “pride leads to disgrace” (Prov. 11:2) and that “pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18). I will encourage you to read and meditate on Uzziah’s full story in 2 Chronicles 26. The stories of Haman (Esther 3–7) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) also offer valuable insights into pride and are well worth studying.

Humility and the humbling of oneself is out of fashion in today’s world and seems unappealing to most, but our perspective on humility can be radically changed if we will ponder and meditate on the greatest example of humility in history: JESUS CHRIST, THE PERFECT EXAMPLE. By the very act of leaving heaven, coming to earth, and taking the form of man, he demonstrated an unfathomable humbling of himself. Throughout his life on earth, Jesus demonstrated a spirit of profound humility, saying that he came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). On his last night with the disciples, he took a towel and basin and washed their dirty feet (John 13:1–11), instructing them to follow his example of servant hood with one another (John 13:12–17).

Andrew Murray captures it well, “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.”

Jesus’ strong emphasis on humility and meekness and his example of it must take hold of our thoughts, our desires and our conduct. We must admire his humility and want it for ourselves. For this to happen, we need to earnestly and regularly pray for the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, for it is impossible to do it in our own strength.

If pride is an exalted sense of who we are in relation to God and others, humility is having a realistic sense of who we are before God and others. God honors those who have humility. Andrew Murray said, ”The great test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us.”

John Chrysostom, ‘For just as pride is the root of all sin, so “humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.”

“The only way to be humble is to be humbled. Though that is difficult to accept, you can do it. The danger of pride is greater and nearer than we think, and the grace for humility too.”