Humility is vital for healthy relationships (part 1)
Humility is overlooked and misunderstood by many.
- It is not playing down our achievements
- It is not some weird religious idea
- It is not modesty
What is humility?
In the Bible the word humble means low lying. It can be used literally of mountains and hills 1(Luke 3:5) 5 Every valley will be filled. Every mountain and hill will be brought low. The crooked will become straight, and the rough ways smooth.. Metaphorically it means to make ourselves low. The act of being made low is humiliation and this is never a pleasant experience. The opposite of humility is pride and the humble are often rejected by the proud.
Why is it so important?
We are told that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud 2(James 4:6) 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”. If we want God to be on our side we had better become humble.
Humility always precedes honour 3(Proverbs 18:12) 12 Before destruction the heart of man is proud, but before honor is humility.. If we want to be ultimately honoured then we need first to be humble.
Jesus humbled Himself. If we are to truly follow Him then we need to learn humility 4(John 10:27) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. .
Jesus experienced both humiliation and rejection
Jesus deliberately made Himself lowly. He did this despite being Almighty God and Lord of all 5(Philippians 2:5-11) 5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, yes, the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father..
Vine largely defines rejection as, “to reject” as the result of examination and disapproval. It is used of the “rejection” of Christ by the elders and chief priests of the Jews, 6(Matthew. 21:42) 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected was made the head of the corner. This was from the Lord. It is marvelous in our eyes’?; (Mark 8:31; 12:10; Luke 9:22; 20:17; 1 Peter. 2:4, 7).
We are told that Jesus was despised and rejected 7(Isaiah 53:3) 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. by men. It was not just men but by the very people who should have welcomed Him and accepted Him. John tells us that He came unto His own but His own received him not 8(John 1:11) 11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him. . His own friends at points rejected His message and who He is and tried to stop Him from doing the work God had given Him 9(Mark 3:21) 21 When his friends heard it, they went out to seize him; for they said, “He is insane.” . His own family rejected who He really was for much of His ministry upon the earth 10(John 7:3-5) 3 His brothers therefore said to him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that your disciples also may see your works which you do. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, reveal yourself to the world.” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him..
One of the reasons many people struggled to see Jesus for who He is was because he came very differently from their expectations. Jesus came humbly with His glory hidden. This humiliated Messiah was neither according to their thinking or liking. One of the features of Jesus’ time upon earth was that He humbled himself and became of no reputation.
We should not minimise in our thinking how painful and costly it was for Jesus to experience both the rejection and the humiliation.
We also experience humiliation
We have also experienced situations in which we have felt rejected and humiliated. It is an experience common to mankind. One of the first reactions of Adam and Eve, when they sinned, was to hide from God because of their shame 11(Genesis 3:7:8) 7 Their eyes were opened, and they both knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together, and made coverings for themselves. 8 They heard Yahweh God’s voice walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.. Mankind has been reacting with shame and trying to cover things up ever since. The fear of being exposed and being rejected is deep-rooted within all of us.
It is one thing as a member of the human race to experience rejection and humiliation but an entirely different thing to experience this because we are Christians and are testifying to the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of God’s people have been rejected and humiliated in both blatant and subtle ways because they love God 12(Matthew 5:10-12) 10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you..
We have been called to follow Jesus. It should not really surprise us that like Him people disapprove of us and slander us. We would do well to remember that He knows exactly what we feel because He has also experienced what we face. He is, therefore, able to help and comfort us with perfect understanding 13(Hebrews 2:17, 18) 17 Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted..
The key to people living and working together is submission. Submission is where we willingly humble ourselves and take a low place.
The Bible tells us to submit ourselves one to another in the fear of God 14(Ephesians 5:21) 21 subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.. This is not just some people submitting to others but everyone submitting to everyone else. The word means to arrange under. In any situation there needs to be people who defer their own wills to the decisions of others. This should not be one sided but in different situations sometimes we submit and other times we take a lead.
Paul gives three examples of how submission can work. These examples are marriage 15(Ephesians 5:22-33) 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without defect. 28 Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly, 30 because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. 31 “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife. Then the two will become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and the assembly. 33 Nevertheless each of you must also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband., parents and children 16(Ephesians 6:1-4) 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: 3 “that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” 4 You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. and employers and employees 17(Ephesians 6:5-8) 5 Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ, 6 not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same good again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free. 9 You masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him..
Godly, Biblical submission is not one sided. Wives are told to submit themselves to their husbands but the expectation is also that husbands will lay down their lives for their wives. Children are told to obey their parents in the Lord but parents are to so nurture, provide and care for their children that they are not provoked to anger. Employees own their business and take the investment risks. When people are employed by them these employees enter into a voluntary mutually beneficially place where they submit to the business leaders. Employers are told to treat their employees fairly and well and the workers are told to honour their contracts and be diligent in their work.
Without humility life as we know it could not exist. It needs to be more than just a word in our lives that we know of but never really put into practice. The foundation of all true service is humility.
- How do you view yourself; do you think of yourself as superior to others?
- How can we humble ourselves?
- How have you benefitted from the humility of another?
In the next article we will look at the perversion of humility and the toxic outcomes of this.