My title is almost an oxymoron, isn’t it. But here I display my first mistake of the day. That is, I’m pointing out the lack of humility in the world around me, when instead I should be thinking of my own attitudes…
Self-analysis is something most of us lack, and instead we spend too much time pointing out the faults of others. I must admit, I’m as guilty as anyone else.
Most people, if aware of the concept of humility at all, have a strange understanding of it. That’s partly because it’s not a subject we want to learn about or master. We all want to exalt ourselves, and that’s the flavor of the day, even among those who consider themselves to be woke to the social and political issues of our day.
My dad, a true Christian who gave his life for his God and his family, would say that if you think you’re humble, you aren’t. And here we can bring in the man described by Jesus Christ who thought he was better than the low-life of his day:
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector (Luke 18:11).
This Pharisee thought he was on a higher plain than others. Now look at the man Jesus contrasted him with:
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner‘ (Luke 18:13).
The one who went away justified, said Jesus, was the one who realized who he really was in the eyes of God, and by the standards of a perfect God.
I’ve heard ministers describe humility as “a quiet strength”. They must be worried about what their donors think of them, so they temper their definition into a euphemism of what is really the world’s standard. True, humility doesn’t mean hating yourself, or thinking that you’re a useless low-life when in fact God loves you and sent His Son for you. But look at our tax-collector above. He had a certain power over people, yet when he looked at God in his mind’s eye, he knew that his power was really nothing of any consequence at all. He was nothing: mortal, flawed, sinful, despised by men, and acceptable to God only by His grace and mercy.
Humility is not pretending to be humble while expecting people to look up to you for what you have, or for what you think you’ve achieved. It’s beating your chest when you realize what you are, compared to a perfect, holy, eternal, omnipotent God.
Paul contrasted humility with its opposite:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Selfish ambition…vain conceit. Thinking you’re a somebody when you’re really dust: a nobody compared to your Creator and sustainer. The opposite, says Paul, is modelled by Jesus Christ,
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).