In the affluent west the idea of humility is sidelined by several notions. Being ‘humble’ suggests being poor or of limited means, such as when we say, “He has a humble dwelling on the edge of town”. Humble means economically disadvantaged.
Humility also represents a place of subservience or inferiority, and in the image and success-conscious west people are striving to be successful or to at least look successful. So appearing humble is a negative in our culture.
We are also expected to be our ‘own person’ and to assert ourselves, including to have things as we want them. We are expected to serve ourselves, somewhat indulgently, making sure we get what we want the way we like it. Being humble means we would not live out that cultural value. We are supposed to know what we want and to demand it, not to be passive or in the background.
By those notions and other influences, humility is not a high value in western society. Yet God, before Whom we have no comparative value, calls us to live a life that is humble.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. So what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
God wants us to ‘walk humbly with our God’. To walk is to live, so this is not just something we do during a church service, but 24/7 (24 hours, 7 days a week) as a lifestyle.
While people are pursuing their ideal lifestyle, whether that’s measured in material terms, or in terms of doing what they want as they want it (which is a definition of lust, by the way), few are pursuing a lifestyle of living humbly before God. Yet that is what God asks of us.
Have you seen a group of people chatting about a hot topic and seen the vigorous offering of people’s opinions? That pushing of our point of view, trying to impress others with what we have figured out, or trying to recruit people to our perspective, is not the way a humble person would behave.
Have you seen someone reject something because it’s not what they want the way they want it? People turn their noses up at food, clothes, activities and the like, because it doesn’t suit them. Christians at times go church hunting, struggling to find one they like. They evaluate each one based on how well it fits their personally determined criteria. That demand to be served with what we want as we like it is not the way a humble person would behave.
Have you seen a husband or wife become hard toward their spouse because of failure by the spouse to make them happy the way they want to be made happy? Is that the way a humble person would respond?
Have you seen people upgrade to the latest and greatest technology, or a new house or car, or even change career, because that want to ‘keep up’? A person who puts humility high on their list of values wouldn’t need to keep up with anything.
If you were to meet a person who held a less than impressive job and who had no ambition to claw their way to a higher place, living in modest means and not caring that they are out of fashion and driving a car that looks tired, wouldn’t you have a cultural negative reaction to that? It’s not the modern western way.
If that person was dedicated to serving God and gave their excess to missions or Christian ministry, more concerned about glorifying God than glorifying their own reputation, should we be ashamed of that person or impressed?
Our very culture despises, even if quietly and subtly, the value of humility.
Let me comment here that being humble is separate from being wealthy and powerful. Moses was leader of the whole nation yet he was the ‘meekest man that ever lived’.
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3
God blessed many of his people with great wealth, including Job, Abraham, Solomon and Isaac. These men were able to be humble before God, despite their great wealth and power. So our western concepts are skewed off course. Humility is not an economic or social issue, but a matter of the heart.
Walking humbly before God is about how readily we pay attention to God and what He wants, as opposed to us and what we want. A godly humble person, no matter how rich and influential, will be willing to do what others might think ridiculous, because they are prompted by God to do it. In fact, we tend to be impressed when a great person stops to pay attention to someone of no significance, as an act of kindness.
A humble person will serve others. They will serve with a servant heart, as Christians are instructed to do in the Bible. We are told to serve each other out of our love for each other.
“You, brothers, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom to indulge your human impulses. Rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
Some people serve our of a sense of duty. Fine as that may be, Christians are asked to have a servant heart. They are to serve out of love for one another, not some duty that they don’t really like having imposed on them. A humble heart embraces the calling to serve others, rather than resenting it.
Our love for fellow Christians and our love for our neighbour, caring about others rather than ourselves, is what will testify to all around us that we are followers of Christ.
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34,35
Sadly there are churches where people think their best testimony of being godly is to show that they have deeper theological knowledge, or that they live by stricter standards, or that they are holier than others, or that they look rich and happy. Jesus did not commend those things as evidence of our spirituality. We shine as Christ’s disciples because of our love for one another. That love shines when we are humble enough to put others ahead of us, and not to push them out of the way while we seek what we want, the way we want it.
Take a moment to ask yourself the question, ‘How much evidence is there to onlookers that I have humbled myself before God in the past day, week or month?’ Could you convince others that you have done that? Or would they only see you living for yourself, demanding things the way you want them, rejecting things God puts in front of you because they don’t suit you and doing your own thing?
I call you to recognise that your lifestyle is to be that of Walking Humbly with God.