Ephesians 4: 1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Philippians 2: 1-11
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
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!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Humility is a quality that is hard to define and even harder to develop. It means more than simply not being puffed up or full of ourselves. Humility is a posture of self-surrender. It is a lifestyle, not an occasional act or behaviour. Notice how Paul refers to himself in verse 1 as: "...a prisoner for the Lord." This great apostle, who wrote much of the New Testament, could have used many titles and accolades to describe himself, yet he expresses his self-identity with such humility. There was no desire for self-promotion or public recognition. Nor is this the insincere, false humility that we see so often around us today, especially within some Christian circles. This was a true, genuine, authentic acknowledgement of how Paul ultimately saw himself. Not as a prisoner of Rome, but as a prisoner for the Lord. It was, ultimately, all for Jesus.
This humility is best exemplified in how we treat other people. It is a relational posture which comes as we recognise the beauty, dignity and destiny of others. Every time we honour someone else, we humble ourselves. This is particularly true when we choose to honour those who we don't like or who may have mistreated us. Conversely, as we humble ourselves, the Bible makes it clear that this draws honour into our lives:
"...humility comes before honour." (Prov 15: 33)
"Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour." (Prov 18: 12)
"Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honour and life." (Prov 22: 4)
We see this in the life of Christ, as explained by Paul in Philippians. Jesus completely and totally humbled himself, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name..." (Phil 2:9)
Humility and honour are central to relational health, and without them it is difficult to develop and sustain deep relationships. Our families, workplaces, schools, communities and the political realm would be totally transformed if humility and honour were at the core of how we interacted.
Author Dallas Willard gives 3 helpful ways we can develop this virtue of humility in our daily lives:
(i) Never pretend. In other words, be yourself. We all face those tight moments when we are tempted to claim inside knowledge or special talents we don’t possess. Or we make quick promises we know we can’t keep. Under pressure we may downplay our abilities because we think it makes us appear humble. Wrong on all counts. True humility claims nothing more or less than the truth. What you see is what you get.
(ii) Never presume. So often we think we know what others are feeling or we act as if we can read minds. Humility doesn’t pass judgment on why people do what they do or why they say what they say. The humble person realises that while we judge externals, God alone sees the heart. We therefore refrain from snap judgments, hasty conclusions, and negative assumptions.
(iii) Never push. Humility waits for the Lord to move. Sometimes we get in trouble because we try to force people to do what we want. This may be expressed in different ways such as being bossy, negative, nagging or critical in how we relate to others. People want to be led, they hate to be pushed. They want the freedom to think things through and to come to their own conclusions.
Is there any one of these areas - never pretend; never presume; never push - where you struggle most?
Take time to reflect on Paul's words about Jesus in Philippians 2. The path to true greatness and promotion in God's Kingdom is found in the deepest places of humility, sacrifice and service.