Humility

photo by Freddy Maddie

 
Humility isn’t always considered a virtue, but this is the third virtue the Apostle Paul tells the Colossian Christians to “put on.”
 
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
 
Even moderns fail to think about humility as a virtue. “To get ahead,” the advice goes, “you have to blow your own horn.” In the year Emperor Nero died, there was a scramble among his generals to become the next emperor. Galba was the first but was quickly put to death. Josephus says Galba “was accused by the soldiers as a pusillanimous person.”[1] Paul’s Greek word translated “humility” is used by Josephus to declare Galba “pusillanimous,” that is, “timid, lacking courage or determination.” [2]
 
The New Testament never uses humility in this derogatory sense. It is always a virtue. Paul told the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
 
Peter echoes Paul’s instructions: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)
 
The opposite of humility is pride which Christians consider the first of the Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Lust, Avarice, and Gluttony). Pride is the “inordinate assertion of self.” Pride is always aiming high – which isn’t always a sin. “Excellence” aims high, but the sin of pride is arrogant. It belittles others and inflates self. There is a falseness to pride. Of course, nothing stinks worse than false humility. The early Christian, Clement of Rome, warned: “The humble person should not testify to his own humility, but leave it to someone else to testify about him,” Clement (1 Clement 38:2). [3]
 
James Stalker gives this advice to anyone who wrestles with pride: “Anything that makes us think more of God or our neighbor is a remedy because, as I have said, the essence of pride is selfishness.” [4]
 
Finally, let’s close by considering the example of Jesus:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
     Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
     but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
     And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became 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 confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 1:6 – 11).

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