"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The inspired Word of God provides us with instruction on how we, as God's children, are to live our lives on a daily basis. One area that we should always remember is that of humility. In the scope of our discussion, we shall consider, 1) What does it mean to be humble, 2) Some examples of humility, and 3) The consequence of lacking humility.
James wrote, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10). Humility is a state of mind. It is a characteristic that is taught rather than a natural instinct. One word we often hear synonymously with humility is meekness. A proper understanding of the concept of humility is a must in order to make the proper application to our lives. So then, what does it mean to be humble?
Webster defines humble as, "(1) not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive, (2) reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission." It is impossible for a person to possess the characteristics of humility and arrogance at the same time. When one obeys the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is lowered into a watery grave of baptism and rises to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Through baptism we die to sin and become new creatures; thus we serve a new master. We put away our own will and serve God's will. We, therefore, cannot be pleasing servants to God and our own selfish will.
"Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Without God, man is nothing and is hopeless to save himself, so why do we believe that we have the right to exalt ourselves? When we realize who we are in the scheme of things, we will humble ourselves in the sight of God as well as our fellow man. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).
There are more examples of those possessing a humble attitude in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament, than we have space to discuss. By looking at a few of these examples, however, we can better understand the attitude that God desires for us to possess.
In the thirteenth chapter of Genesis, we can read of "the friend of God," Abraham. Abraham, traveling with his nephew Lot, both having many possessions and cattle, came to a point that the land could not support them both. The Bible tells us that contentions arose between their herdsmen, and Abraham settled the matter by allowing Lot to first choose what land he wanted and Abraham accepted the remainder. How many of us display this type attitude toward our fellow brethren or even fellow man?
In the New Testament, we can look at the apostle Paul as one possessing a humble attitude. Paul suffered many great things for the sake of preaching the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Yet, Paul was able to make statements such as: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8), and "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Philippians 3:8).
Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul followed in his Lord's steps even as he described Christ's humble attitude in his letter to the Philippians. After describing our humble attitudes toward one another, Paul states, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). Then, Paul continues with the thought of how Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, was willing to come to this earth and humble himself as a servant. Read carefully and consider Christ's attitude in that upper room the night before his death in John chapter thirteen. If our Lord and savior considered himself as a servant (Matthew 20:28), how ought we to consider ourselves?
We are pleasing to God when we obey his will and keep his commands (John 14:15). Two of the ways in which we are given commands from God in his inspired Word are direct statement and example. Peter tells us that Christ is our example to follow (1 Peter 2:21), and as shown above, Christ displayed an attitude of humility. There are numerous passages that state our need of the characteristic of humility (e.g., James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5-6; Matthew 23:12).
When we fail to possess this characteristic, we, in turn, are selfish. Man is hopelessly lost in sin without the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Hebrews 9:22), and cannot save himself (Philippians 4:13). We need God for our salvation (Romans 1:16) and that requires us to put away our will and accept God's will, which requires a humble attitude. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus told us that we cannot serve both God and mammon; and then in verse 33, he told us where our attention should be focused, and that is serving God.
Saul lost his kingdom due to the fact that he turned from his humble attitude, which he had in the beginning, to an attitude of selfishness. Judas paid the consequences when he allowed his greed to over power his will to serve God. Demas' love for this present world allowed him to give up his humbleness and fall from grace. There is a consequence for not maintaining a proper attitude (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). However, there is a reward for those who humble themselves to God's will (James 4:10; Galatians 6:1-10).