What is Humility? (1)

Posted in: Bible Studies

What is Humility?

In 1980, country singer Mac Davis proclaimed, “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Although I’ve never heard anyone in the military claim to be perfect, I’ve known a few who wanted everyone to think they were. The fact is, though, it’s not easy to be humble while serving in the armed forces.

As in many other professions, the military culture puts a lot of pressure on men and women to be a cut above their peers. Competition is built into performance evaluation, promotion, and assignment systems. If you want to succeed, you have to demonstrate ability, integrity, and confidence far greater than those exhibited by your contemporaries.

So how do Christians in the armed forces combine competence on the job with the humility God’s word encourages us to display? First, we have to know what humility is. If you look up the word in a Bible dictionary, you’ll find humility is the Christian grace that causes us to think no more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. It is freedom from vanity and arrogance, and it starts when we recognize that all we have and are comes from God.

Many years ago, William Temple served as Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest position in the Church of England. He taught:

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.”

Truly humble people realize the joys and challenges of others are just as important as their own, even though they may not think they are. Humility is the ability to recognize and discard any feelings that elevate ourselves and put down others. It reverses the natural tendency to compare our strengths with others’ weaknesses and allows us to see ourselves and others from God’s point of view.

The Bible is filled with stories of ordinary people God used to do extraordinary things. One of the traits these folks had in common was humility. Consider these examples:

♦  Moses was more humble than any man on Earth. When God called him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, Moses responded that he wasn’t qualified to take on such an important role.

♦  Prior to Solomon assuming the throne in Israel, the Lord told him He’d give the future king whatever he wanted. Rather than wealth or fame, Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge God’s people and the ability to discern between good and evil.

♦  Daniel interpreted a dream of the powerful Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of taking credit for this amazing feat, Daniel explained God had revealed the mystery to him.

♦  Finally, as people flocked to John to be baptized, he assured them, “After me One is coming Who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.”

Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts when they won the 2007 Super Bowl, was a model of humility throughout his coaching career.

“Rather than insisting that others respect us, we need to make sure we are respecting others, holding others in the proper esteem,” he suggested. “Humility—that life is not about us but about others and something greater than us—is to be valued.”

In the midst of the fierce competition within the military, displaying humility consistently is one way we can be effective witnesses for Christ.

Who are the most humble people you’ve run across?
How could you become more like what you saw in them?


Series: Considering the character of humility as a Christian in the military:

1. What is Humility?
2. Why be Humble?
3. Paul’s Requirements for Humility
4. The Rewards of Humility