by Roland W. Keith
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:34).
Let’s face it, most of us at some point in our lives have thought a little more of ourselves than we ought to have. At one time or another we have been infected with the ‘big head’. And for some of us the cure was a bit painful, even humbling. Being brought back to the reality of our limitations can be like that.
It is interesting that in the above quote Paul equated humility (“not to think of himself more highly than he ought”) with sober thought. To think soberly is to be thoughtful in demeanor, even-keeled or temperate in judgment, to be serious-minded or lacking in excessive emotion or prejudice. Such a person accurately assesses their own abilities, as well as those of others and gives deference or preference where due. They are not a respecter of persons, yet honor those put in authority over them.
Micah once wrote, “He [God] has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Humility for the Christian is to be fair to all, kind to all, and to act in obedience to God. If honor does come to us it should be as a result of that humble obedience, not through self-promotion (Proverbs 15:33). In fact, Jesus compared Christian humility to that of a child. Children who are well-raised respect and show deference to their parents and other adults, which bodes well for their future, as is true for the Christian who humbles himself before the Lord (Matthew 18:3-4).
On the other hand, those who exalt themselves will ultimately be humbled (Luke 14:11). James echoed this understanding in his letter: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8; see also I Peter 5:5-6). Those who resist God are opposed by Him, those who resist the devil, and humbly turn to God are accepted by Him.
Those who turn to God in humility are recognizable by their compassion, patience, willingness to listen, and their love for humanity (Colossians 3:11-14). They see no difference between themselves and their fellow sojourner. However, it is important to understand that a humble person does not necessarily possess a milquetoast personality. Two of the most aggressive and toughest people in the Bible were Peter and Paul, both of whom were humbled by their experiences. Paul especially was brought low by the Lord before he was raised up as an apostle; even then he was given a “thorn in the side” to help manage any tendency toward conceit he might have had (II Corinthians 12:7).
Paul was not one to shrink back as an example to others (II Corinthians 11:21-30), yet he honestly wrote, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:18-20). The point is the type of humility we are talking about is not synonymous with the word wimpy. Christians have to be tough-minded and durable.
Peter and Paul are just two examples of humble servants in the Bible, but the greatest example of tough-minded determination and humility in scriptures is that of Jesus Christ. As Philip wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Those few verses describe the most profound example of humility ever recorded. No one has ever given up more, nor submitted to greater apparent degradation for the benefit of others than our Lord did. We cannot begin to repay our Lord for what He did for us, but we can do our best to emulate Him by how we treat one another and by what we are willing to sacrifice for others (Romans 12:10-11; John 15:13).
It turns out that true humility is not for the faint-hearted or weak. It takes courage and personal fortitude to be humble. The follower of Christ is humble, but firm in his convictions, not willing to compromise the truth. The man and woman of God must view all as someone just as worthy in God’s eyes as they are, yet be determined not to yield to the world in its error, standing for the truth against all odds.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.