How do you react to the inevitable successes and failures in your life—with pride or humility? Pride prevents us from crediting God with the good things in our lives. Instead, we reach the erroneous conclusion that whatever we value in our lives—our appearance, our abilities, our families, our possessions—are somehow the result of our effort.
Humility is seeing ourselves—both our accomplishments and our failures—from God’s point of view. And such a shift in perspective is not always pleasant! We have already seen that humility is necessary to receive God’s grace. But besides helping us gain entrance into heaven, humility also allows us to enjoy healthy relationships with others.
What exactly is humility and how is it developed?
1. Humility is willing to credit others for our successes.
1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” The truly humble person is so consumed with his job as a servant that he is not concerned with who gets the credit for his work.
I will never forget visiting the Oval Office during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and seeing one of the plaques on his desk. It read:“There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”
2. Humility generates genuine interest in others.
A humble person seeks to serve other people instead of using them. Such a person has adopted Jesus’ mission statement: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Such a view of others is completely contrary to a culture which is characterized by books like Winning through Intimidationand Looking Out for Number One. Yet Jesus made it clear that: “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
3. Humility resists the need to always be right.
While a prideful attitude blames others for our failures, humility recognizes that the problem may be us. A humble person realizes that he does not have a monopoly on the truth. He is willing to admit that the other person might be right, at least on some points.
When you are in a disagreement with another person, are you willing to admit that you may not be right? Do you really listen to that person, or are you so busy formulating your next statement that you don’t hear what that person is trying to communicate? A humble person is willing to admit he is wrong.
As 1 Peter 5:5-6 reminds us: “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
4. Humility views life’s accomplishments and failures from God’s perspective.
We Christians often have a difficult time maintaining a balanced view of ourselves. We usually gravitate to one of two extremes: “I am so wonderful, how could God ever get along without me?” to “I am just a lowly worm who can’t do anything.” Fortunately, the Bible does not substantiate either of those perspectives.
To the person who revels in his accomplishments, the Word of God has this reminder in Romans 12:3: “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Paul then goes on to discuss the truth of spiritual gifts: God has gifted each of us differently so that we might serve Him. Just as a body has many necessary parts for its smooth functioning, so the body of Christ is not one part, but many. No Christian was designed to function in isolation. We need one another.
To the person who is constantly berating himself as an under serving wretch, the Word of God has this reminder in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Humility gives us God’s perspective about ourselves—apart from Christ we are deserving of nothing but eternal punishment. But in Christ, we are capable of anything. Like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13, we can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“It is not me, but Christ in me.” This is the attitude of the humble Christian toward any good thing in his life.