What is humility, really? Is there any trait more odious than pride or more precious than humility? Is there any trait whose presence we so highly honor in others and whose absence we so readily excuse in ourselves? Truly, pride is the chief of sins and humility the highest of virtues. Yet the Christian has the joy of seeing the Holy Spirit put pride to death and bring to life the beauty of humility.
What Is Humility?
What is humility? A humble person thinks little of himself.
Job insists that God “saves the lowly,” which means, literally, “the person of low eyes” (Job 22:29). A truly humble person, in moments of honest introspection, thinks less of himself than even others think of him. He echoes David who insists, “I am a worm and not a man” (Psalm 22:6).
What is humility? A humble person thinks better of others than of himself.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,” says Paul, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). A humble person thinks better of others than of himself because he can see his own heart and the sin that lurks there better than he can see the heart of any other person. Though he knows the extent of his own depravity, he assumes the best of others. While he searches himself for every vestige of sin, he searches everyone else for every vestige of grace.
What is humility? A humble person has a low assessment of his spiritual disciplines.
Just as worms breed in the sweetest fruit, pride breeds in the holiest duties. The humble person studies God’s Word and prays fervently, but then repents of his trite study and weak prayers. He knows that even his best moments are still marred by sin and his best efforts are still so weak. He goes about the Christian disciplines, but puts his confidence in his Savior, not his duties.
What is humility? A humble person complains about his heart, not his circumstances.
Even when he faces difficulty, his greatest grief is the state of his heart. Where a hypocrite loves to boast about his goodness, the humble soul is always aware of his badness. Even Paul, who had the immense privilege of being caught up to the third heaven, cried out, “Wretched man that I am!” The more a Christian grows in knowledge, the more he becomes aware of his ignorance, of his lack of faith, and the more he cries out for God’s grace.
What is humility? A humble person praises God in times of trouble.
He praises God even in times of great difficulty and refuses to condemn God for bringing such painful circumstances. With Abraham he says, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” With Job, he always refuses to charge God with any wrongdoing, for it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away.
What is humility? A humble person magnifies Christ.
He always ensures that he gives glory to Christ. He deflects all praise away from himself and to his Savior. He takes the crown of honor from his own head and sets it upon Christ’s so that he will be magnified. He loves Christ in such a wholehearted way that he will give to him everything, including honor and praise.
What is humility? A humble person accepts reproof for sin.
A sinful, arrogant person is too high to stoop down to take a reproof, but a godly person loves and honors the one who reproves him. As Solomon says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). A humble Christian can bear the reproach of an enemy and the reproof of a friend.
What is humility? A humble person is content to be eclipsed by others.
He is willing to have his name and his accomplishments eclipsed by others so that Christ can be magnified and God can be glorified. He deliberately does battle with the ugly sin of envy, saying often, “Let me decrease and let Christ increase.” A humble Christian is content to be put aside if another can take his place and bring greater glory to God.
What is humility? A humble person accepts the condition God sees best for him.
While a proud man grumbles that he has no more, a humble man wonders why he has so much. A Christian looks at his sin and marvels that his condition isn’t far worse. No matter his circumstances, his focus is not on his great difficulties but on his little holiness. He knows that even the worst of circumstances is far better than he deserves.
What is humility? A humble person will stoop to the lowest person and lowest tasks.
He will give time to the lowest person and he will give attention to the most undesirable tasks. He prefers to swab the sores of Lazarus than to enjoy the treasures of the rich man. He does not insist that he is too noble or too holy for anyone or any task, but willingly “associates with the lowly” (Romans 12:16).
Jerry Bridges once wrote, “Humility is not an optional add-on for the super-spiritual; it is for all believers to practice in our daily lives.” Are you committed to growing in humility? Honestly assess yourself in light of these 10 marks and pray to God for his grace.
This article was drawn from The Godly Man’s Picture, which I’m reading with a whole crowd of people as part of my ongoing Reading Classics Together effort.
This article originally appeared here.