Humility, an essential Christian characteristic, is being set aside in our world of shameless self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. James clearly tells us that we cannot be children of God if we are not humble.
“…Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4: 7-10).
Verse ten of this passage strikes at the crux of the matter. In order to be saved, we must have enough humility to admit that we cannot lift ourselves out of sin. We must have a sufficient amount of humility to admit we have sinned, and that we are “without strength” in this matter (Romans 5:6). We must admit that there is One who is greater than ourselves in the universe and He has paved the way for our salvation. This amount of humility meets only the minimum threshold for a child of God. I only have to look up into the night skies and witness the vast expanse of His creation to realize how small I am in comparison with Him. I can look out at an advancing wall of storm clouds to feel the vast disparity in the power of the creator and my own feeble capabilities.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3).
Yet the Lord calls us to not only acknowledge his position above us, but he also instructs us to regard others to be above us, too. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).
This is the level of humility for which each of us must strive. That is, to regard each one of our brethren to be better than ourselves. Our Lord undoubtedly provides us with the ultimate example. Paul, in Philippians two, follows up his earlier instruction to “let each esteem other better than themselves” with the reminder that our Lord, Christ Jesus, gave us an example by doing this very thing.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).
This scripture brings several points to light that make the example of our savior’s humility even more striking.
First, Jesus’ example further corroborates James’ assertion in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Jesus humbled himself to the will of the Father even to the point of death and has been exalted by the Father, and has been given “a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Second, verse six clearly states that, as the Son of God, Jesus is equal with God. Yet, even though he is equal to God in his act of sacrifice for us, he demonstrated that he values our souls above his own life. This example of ultimate humility is truly astounding. Jesus’ life on this earth is the single greatest act of humility that ever will be.
The creator came and lived with his creation as if he were a created being and suffered the indignities of an outcast. Yet, he was humble throughout. John chapter one verses one through thirteen clearly state this point quite clearly. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10-11). The creator came to the world and was rejected. This is one of the many indicators of the great humility of our Lord. He permitted His creation to reject Him. Placed in the same situation, how many of us could have refrained from using the power of the creator to stop the mouths of those who mocked, derided, and belittled their own creator? No matter what was said to or about Him, our Lord subjugated himself to the will of the Father (John 6:38-39). And now he asks that we do the same.
If Jesus, who is the creator, humbled himself, what excuse do we have for pride?
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
If we think soberly about our own lives, it is much easier to follow Paul’s admonition in Philippians 2:3. It is not hard to find brethren that are better Christians (e.g. more hospitable, generous, loving, knowledgeable, humble, etc.). We can grow in humility by following the example of our Lord, and keeping a level head about our own failings and the strengths of others. If we do so, the Lord will lift us up.