The term “humble” may conjure a variety of images. I think of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, a man who claimed to be “umble” clerk. He actually was a treacherous man who tried to blackmail his employer and marry his employer’s daughter so he could take over his business and fortune. In today’s me-me culture, the idea of humility may conjure up an image of a limp dishrag everyone walks all over. The term “meek” has the same meaning but seems like an even more wimpy state of being.
Being humble is a good thing to be. Jesus said that humble people would inherit the earth. Jesus describes Himself as being “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He lived his life as a servant and met the needs of other people in various ways.
The Problem with Pride
The opposite of humility is pride. God hates pride and arrogance because if it is selfish, self-seeking, vain, and destructive. Pride also destroys other people in the lives of proud people. God will bring proud and arrogant people low (Isaiah 2:11) and exalts humble people.
God has a hate list of people’s attitudes and behavior (Proverbs 6:16-18). He hates people who:
• have haughty eyes
• are liars
• shed innocent blood
• plot wicked schemes
• are quick to rush into evil
Haughty eyes stands out as the first item on the list. Jesus encourages us not to seek our own way but to be a servant to all.
Characteristics of Humble People
Humble people show love to others: Jesus commanded us to love one another as we love ourselves. That means that we do good things for other people when we can. This aspect of humility is challenging to maintain in our busy, selfish world. We need to put aside all the demands of our daily lives and be aware of the needs of others.
When we put the needs of others first, we may be blessed in unexpected ways. For example, if we go to a special event, we should not try to grab the best seats, but be OK to sit at the back if we must. There is always a chance that someone will ask us to move to the front, which is much better than the embarrassment of having someone ask us to move to the back.
Humble people are not self-seeking: We live in a world of people driven by selfish desires and ambition who are willing to do anything it takes to promote themselves. They do not hesitate to put down or step on others to get their way. Humble people, on the other hand, do not worry about getting ahead. They know that God will answer their prayers and advance them at the right time.
Humble people are not easily offended: When we are humble, we can overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16) and move on with our lives. We can endure most things (Ephesians 4:2). We can forgive those who offend us and put the past behind us. On the other hand, proud people always have a chip on their shoulders and are fuming about something.
Humble people are not judgmental: Meek people esteem other people better than themselves and treat them with honor and respect. They do not judge others and put them down. They accept other people’s weaknesses and eccentricities with patience and understanding. They do not think any higher of themselves than they ought.
Humble people do not worry about outward appearances: We live in a world that is concerned about looking good at all times. They spend a lot of money on their physical appearance. They go deeply into debt to look prosperous and successful. They are quick to take credit, even when they do not deserve it. They make a big show of donating to charity and doing good works.
Humble people, on the other hand, help others in secret without any fuss. They do not care if no one but God knows what they have done (Matthew 6:1-3, 1 Corinthians 10:23-25). They are content, knowing that God recognizes and rewards them for the things they have done in secret. They see themselves as valued children of God and are not concerned about what people think of them.
The prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
People who exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11). Jesus gave an example of this principle in a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector (Luke 18).
Here was the Pharisee, a well-respected member of a religious group known for its piety and extreme law-keeping. On the other side was a tax collector, one of the most despised members of society. Tax collectors were known for being greedy and scamming people out of money that went into their pockets.
Yet, when they prayed, the tax collector’s prayer was heard, and he went home justified before God, while Mr. Holier-Than-Thou’s prayer was rejected. What was the difference? Humility. The Pharisee stood in pride and arrogance, looking down on the tax collector. The tax collector was so humble that he did not even lift his eyes to heaven.
Humility is something that we must actively seek and integrate into our character (Colossians 3:12). Those who are humble find favor with God (Proverbs 3:34). God saves and sustains humble people but brings low the haughty (2 Samuel 22:28, Psalm 18:27; 147:6, Proverbs 18:12). He will guide the humble to do what is right and teach them His way (Psalm 25:9).
God will lift us up if we are humble and gentle with others (Ephesians 4:2, James:4:10). God should be the One who exalts us. God wants us to realize that we are sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. When we can humbly see ourselves as we truly are, we can live lives filled with peace and joy.
Carola Finch, writer and author
Latest book: Healing from Hurts and Offenses