How would you define humble? What are some traits you associate with people who are humble? Is being humble being quiet and not pushing your opinions on people? Is being humble letting others have their way? Or is being humble something that requires strength of character and heart? Humility is one of those subjects that is often mischaracterized in modern-day culture as being passive or not defending yourself. In reality, we see examples of people who were strong, powerful individuals who exhumed humility at every turn. Moses was humble before God but led an entire people out of Egypt. Paul is regarded as one of the strongest apostles of the early church yet he constantly referred to himself as being the worst of earth’s sinners. Humility and passivity are far from the same.
Christ’s Humility Displays His Power
When we look at the life of Christ, the humility of the man of Yeshuah only magnifies exactly how glorious His life on earth was. In Philippians 2 we read…
Let your attitude toward one another be governed by your being in union with the Messiah Yeshua:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not regard equality with God
something to be possessed by force.
On the contrary, he emptied himself,
in that he took the form of a slave
by becoming like human beings are.
And when he appeared as a human being,
he humbled himself still more
by becoming obedient even to death —
death on a stake as a criminal!
Therefore God raised him to the highest place
and gave him the name above every name;
that in honor of the name given Yeshua,
every knee will bow —
in heaven, on earth and under the earth —
and every tongue will acknowledge
that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai —
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Christ’s life was one huge, walking example of what it means to be humble. To be the king of heaven’s armies, Lord of all creation, the God that will restore a new kingdom on earth at which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess… and then to also be the man the crowds would torture, mock, and reject on a cross as they would a common criminal is a display of humility unlike anything that we had ever seen before and that we’ve ever seen since. The humility of the greatest Buddhist monk or most pious nun can not compare to the humility displayed by Christ denigrating himself to a human form, much less a human death.
When we consider humility and the price we pay for being humble, it pails in comparison to what God has done for us.
The Model for Humility
Paul gives us a model for humility in Philippians immediately before discussing the humility of God. In chapter 2 he writes…
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:1-5)
Paul states that to be humble is to avoid selfishness, thinking highly of our own capability, and pursuing only our own interests. These three items do a good job of personifying what we would consider haughty or arrogant. When we look at each one of these traits, we can see how each item is antithetical to the ministry of Christ. Christ’s life was far from selfish both in His ultimate sacrifice and in His daily service towards His apostles and those who followed His teachings. Christ certainly knew of His supremacy but rarely said a word about it or even broached the subject with those around him. Finally, Christ’s entire life, from birth to death, was entirely centered around pursuing what was better for all around Him. Christ healed many of the sick, forgive countless of their sins, and even spent time instructing religious leaders and authorities of the day. His pursuits were entirely centered around glorifying the kingdom.
When we consider our own humility, we should compare ourselves to the standard set by Christ. Are we living selflessly with our material wealth and emotional abilities? Are we keeping in mind that our abilities are nothing without the power and grace of God? Are we pursuing the benefit of others and God’s kingdom? If we accomplish these things, we live lives that glorify God through service to others and humility in the face of a God that is so much bigger, so much more awesome, and yet so much more humble than any one of us.