What is Humility?

Ann at A Holy Experience asks us to share this week on “humility”, so I’ve been learning and praying and thinking and reading. This post (most of which is not written by me, I paste below some words I found on the subject) is what I’m learning about humility. I’m still gathering in information and letting it soak, learning from others who are way ahead of me, but this much I know… I desire this… to be clothed with it, to feel its wrap around me… to the point I’m wearing it and not even knowing it, a wrap that keeps me where I’m supposed to be—focused on Him.

Sometimes it’s easier to write about what something is not, than what it is. To find a list of verses, I did a search on biblegateway.com . I considered the opposite of humility, which I suppose to be pride, or arrogance, so I looked up verses that included “pride” or “proud”. Then, I looked up “humility”, “humble”, “humbled”.

This is some of what I found.

A proud person:

–          Is arrogant (1 Samuel 2:3)

–          Has a closed heart (Psalm 17:10)

–          Speaks contemptuously against the righteous (Psalm 31:18)

–          Will be fully repaid by the Lord (Ps. 31:23)

–          Is kept at a distance from God (Ps. 138:6)

–          Is an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 16:5)

–          Stirs up strife (Prov. 28:25)

–          Will be halted by the Lord (Is. 13:11)

–          Will stumble and fall (Jer. 50:32)

–          Will be scattered  (Luke 1:51)

–          Knows nothing (1 Tim. 6:4)

–          Is resisted by God (James 4:6)

–          Is covered by violence (Ps. 73:6)

Pride:

–          Comes with shame (Prov. 11:2)

–          Brings strife (Prov. 13:10)

–          Goes before destruction (Prov. 16:18)

–          Acts in arrogance; is a scoffer (Prov. 21:24)

Humility …

–          Is not being haughty (Proverbs 18:12)

–          Is not speaking evil of someone else; lacking in gentleness; not peaceful (Titus 3:2)

–          Does not proudly correct someone else (2 Timothy 2:25)

–          Is not meant to be a “false humility”(Colossians 2:18, 2:23)

Humility is:

–          Before honor (Prov. 15:33)

–          Something to seek (Zeph. 2:3)

–          Something we put on, along with kindness, tender mercies (Col. 3:12)

–          Peaceable and gentle to all people (Titus 3:2)

–          What we are to clothe ourselves with (I Peter 5:5)

–          Something we can choose to do (2 Chron. 7:14)

–          Not forgotten by God (Psalm 9:12, 10:12)

A humble person:

–           Is heard by God (Psalm 10:17)

–          Is guided in justice and taught the way (Psalm 25:9)

–          Boasts in God (Psalm 34:2)

–          Is lifted up by the Lord (Psalm 147:6)

–          Is beautified by salvation (Ps. 149:4)

–          Is given grace(Ps. 3:34)

–          Possesses wisdom (Proverbs 11:2)

–          Retains honor (Proverbs 29:33)

–          Will increase her joy in the Lord (Is. 29:19)

–          Will be exalted (Matt. 23:12)

–          Associates with other humble people; is not wise in her own opinion (Rom. 12:16)

–          Is heard by God (2 Chron. 34:27)

{all verses above are from the NKJV)

I don’t know how you react to these verses, but I’m experienceing several different reactions. One reaction is fear.  The verses on pride and the proud person strike fear in my heart. I certainly don’t want God to regard me as proud. It scares me. Yet, I know I’ve been there, and could easily fall in such a pit again.

I also feel a sense of revenge, a feeling of justification. I am thinking of the people who have hurt me, or who have been proud or haughty or arrogant… and I openly admit a part of me is thinking… “oh yeah, they’re going to get it!!!” I admit – it’s my human, natural response!

But, I also feel comfort and a desire to be a humble person. This is what God wants… and ultimately as I grow, what He wants is what I want. God promises and offers so much to the humble person. God hears the humble, will increase her joy, is guided by God, possesses wisdom. So much beauty… don’t you also feel the longing for all of these things? Gifts of the kingdom?

Contrast that to the plight of the proud person. The proud person is arrogant, will stumble and fall, stirs up strife, and this one got me—“knows nothing”! Oh the irony of it! Don’t we in our pride feel like we know it all? Haven’t we seen a proud person who claims or acts like she knows it all? But the scripture says… a proud person “knows nothing”. Scripture surely sheds light on this particular sin!

I’d also like to share a few interesting quotes on humility that I found:

“The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.” — St. Augustine

“Fullness of knowledge always and necessarily means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance, and that is always conducive to both humility and reverence.” — Robert A. Millikan

“Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself.”— Charles H. Spurgeon

“Humility, that low, sweet root, From which all heavenly virtues shoot.” – Thomas Moore

“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 at all.” -William Temple, Archbishop

Finally, I came across some words by Spurgeon that really helped me to grasp this… It’s so good, it helped me immensely, and I won’t even attempt to restate or summarize it—it is best read in its original form.  Before reading this, I couldn’t have explained humility, other than referring to scripture above, and injecting my own ideas and observations and experiences. But now, with scripture above, and with the words below, I’m thankful to be armed with this definition and knowledge. Below, words from Spurgeon from a sermon entitled “Pride and Humility”:

“Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility?

The best definition I have ever met with is, “to think rightly of ourselves.” Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.

It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. “No,” he says, “I have no ability;” yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you.

It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, “Lord, you have only give me five.” It is not humility to underrate yourself.

Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie.

Humility is not to say, “I have not this gift,” but it is to say, “I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?” But, beloved, humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. To be killed by the same hand which, afterwards, makes us alive, to be ground to pieces as to our own doings and willings, to know and trust in none but Jesus, to be brought to feel and sing—

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all comes from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.
2. Now, what is the seat or throne of humility? The throne of humility must be the heart. I do hate, of all things, that humility which lives in the face. There are some persons who always seem to be so very humble when you are with them, but you can discover there is something underneath it all, and when they are in some other society, they will brag and say how you told them your whole heart. Take heed of the men who allow you to lay your head in their lap and betray you into the hands of the Philistines.

I have met with such persons. I remember a man who used to pray with great apparent humility, and then would go and abuse the servants, and make a noise with all his farming men. He was the stiffest and proudest man in the church, yet he invariably used to tell the Lord, in prayer, that he was nothing but dust and ashes, that he laid his hand on his lip, and his mouth in the dust, and cried, “Unclean, unclean.” Indeed he talked of himself in the most despairing way, but I am sure if God had spoken to him, he must have said, “O, thou that liest before my throne, thou sayest this, but thou dost not feel it; for thou wilt go thy way and take thy brother by the throat, exalt thyself above all thy fellow-creatures, and be a very Diotrephes in the church, and a Herod in the world.”

I dislike that humility which rests in outward things. There is a kind of oil, sanctimonious, proud humility, which is not the genuine article, though it is sometimes extremely like it. You may be deceived by it once or twice, but by-and-bye you discover that is a wolf dexterously covered with sheep’s clothing. It arrayeth itself in the simplest dress in the world; it talks in the gentlest and humblest style; it says, “We must not intrude our own peculiar sentiments, but must always walk in love and charity.” But after all, what is it? It is charitable to all except those who hold God’s truth, and it is humble to all when it is forced to humble. It is like one of whom, I dare say, you have read in your childish books,—

“So, stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot stand upright.”

True humility does not continually talk about “dust and ashes,” and prate about its infirmities, but it feels all that which others say, for it possesses an inwrought feeling of its own nothingness.
Very likely the most humble man in the world won’t bend to anybody. John Knox was a truly humble man, yet if you had seen him march before Queen Mary with the Bible in his hand, to reprove her, you would have rashly said, “What a proud man!”
Cringing men that bow before everybody, are truly proud men; but humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worth while to stoop to serve themselves. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were humble men, for they did not think their lives were worth enough to save them by a sin. Daniel was a humble man; he did not think his place, his station, his whole self, worth enough to save them by leaving off prayer.

Humility is a thing which must be genuine; the imitation of it is the nearest thing in the world to pride. Seek of God, dear friends, the gift of true humility. Seek to have that breaking in pieces by the Holy Spirit, that breaking in the mortar with the pestle which God himself gives to his children. Seek that every twig of his rod may drive pride out of you, so that by the blueness of your wound, your soul may be made better. Seek of him, if he does not show you the chambers of imagery within your own heart, that he may take you to Calvary, and that he may show you his brightness and his glory, that you may be humble before him. Never ask to be a mean, cringing, fawning thing: ask God to make you a man—those are scarce things now-a-days—a man who only fears God, who knows no fear of any other kind. Do not give yourselves up to any man’s power, or guidance, or rule, but ask of God that you may have that humility towards him, which gives you the noble bearing of a Christian before others.
3. Now, in the last place, what comes of humility? “Before honor is humility.” Humility is the herald which ushers in the great king; it walks before honor; and he who has humility, will have honor afterwards.

I will only apply this spiritually. Have you been brought to-day to feel, that in yourself you are less than nothing, and vanity? Art thou humbled in the sight of God, to know thine own unworthiness, thy fallen estate in Adam, and the ruin thou hast brought upon thyself by thine own sins? Hast thou been brought to feel thyself incapable of working out thy own salvation, unless God shall work in thee, to will and to do of his own good pleasure? Hast thou been brought to say, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner?” Well, then, as true as the text is in the Bible, thou shalt have honor by-and-bye. “Such honor have all the saints.”

Thou shalt have honor soon to be washed from all thy guilt; thou shalt have honor soon to be clothed in the robes of Jesus, in the royal garments of the King; thou shalt have honor soon to be adopted into his family, to be received amongst the blood-washed ones who have been justified by faith. Thou shalt have honor to be borne, as on eagles’ wings, to be carried across the river, and at last to sing his praise, who has been the “Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction.” Thou shalt have honor to wear the crown, and wave the palm one day, for thou hast now that humility which comes from God.

You may fear that because you are now humbled by God, you must perish. I beseech you do not think so; as truly as ever the Lord has humbled you, he will exalt you. And the more you are brought low, the less hope you have of mercy; the more you are in the dust, so much the more reason you have to hope. So far from the bottom of the sea being a place over which we cannot be carried to heaven, it is one of the nearest places to heaven’s gate. And if thou art brought to the very lowest place to which even Jonah descended, thou art so much the nearer being accepted.

The more thou knowest thy vileness; remember the blacker, the more filthy, the more unworthy thou art in thine own esteem, so much the more right hast thou to expect that thou wilt be saved. Verily, honor shall come after humility.

Humble souls, rejoice; proud souls, go on in your proud ways, but know that they end in destruction. Climb up the ladder of your pride, you shall fall over on the other side and be dashed to pieces. Ascend the steep hill of your glory; the higher you climb the more terrible will be your fall. For know you this, that against none hath the Lord Almighty bent his bow more often, and against none has he shot his arrows more furiously than against the proud and mighty man that exalteth himself. Bow down, O man, bow down; “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

***

To read more of this sermon (I included much of it, but not all of it), or to read more about Spurgeon, read other sermons, etc. visit this site: www. spurgeon.org, or click here.

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Linking with Ann:

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5 thoughts on “What is Humility?

  1. Spurgeon’s second point could have been written as a character analysis of Uriah Heep from Dickens’s _David Copperfield_. So oily and utterly irritating with his pretense of humility when he truly proved to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

    Thanks for gathering this material. It was very instructive and edifying. I especially appreciated the William Temple quote. God bless you, friend!

  2. I believe that a truly Born Again Christian may mistake CONFIDENCE for Pride. We should be bold for the Lord and although humility is also a walk, it truly means that IN Christ I can do all things, but without him I am nothing. We should put on HIS righteousness, (not our own) and stand PROUD. I am reminded of the little kindergarten children who receive their diplomas. They stand so proud, not arrogant, but pleased that they have passed every test. Also they are happy that their parents are proud of them!!
    God is proud of YOU!

  3. Oh the battle between humility and pride. My pride shows itself whenever I am faced with certain people. Oh how my pride shows up in my lack of forgiveness towards them, because they hurt me. That paragraph about feeling a sense of revenge-that is me, if I were to be completely honest with myself. Just when I think I have found complete forgiveness, I am reminded that I still have a ways to go. So glad Jesus isn’t like that.

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