Humility is a word we mention a lot, but it seldom gets defined. One viable definition is this: “Agreeing with God.” In fact, this is what the Greek word translated “confess” means. And the word translated “virtue” in 2 Peter 1:5.
Pride is the opposite–thinking that we know what is right, defining good and evil ourselves. This is what Adam did in eating the forbidden fruit. In contrast, humility is abandoning that self-centered thinking to embrace God’s opinion about everything.
In fact, that is also what it means to fear God: caring very deeply what He thinks, standing in awe of His wisdom, knowledge and power so much that we obey Him whether we feel like it or not.
The single time Moses failed in his humility was when he reacted as he wanted: instead of speaking to the rock to get water, in anger he struck it, thereby stealing honor from God.
Most of us would like to be humble, but if we are honest, we only selectively agree with what God has to say. The rest of the time we elevate our intellect and emotions above His Word. For instance, how often have I gone ahead and said something negative even after the Spirit has warned me not to! I decide that giving a zinger to someone is more important than obeying God—and thereby steal honor from God.
I want to touch on a point of humility where every one of us misses the mark: what we think of ourselves. A finer focus of the definition of humility is this: “seeing ourselves as God sees us, both in our holiness and in our depravity.”
Those of us who are proud or self-sufficient or self-absorbed, tend to focus on what a good person we are, missing the truth that we have an old nature where we are worthy only of condemnation, rejection, punishment and death.
On the other hand, most of us are dissatisfied with ourselves: our abilities, performance, looks and position. We focus on our lacks, our failures and negatives. We are down on ourselves, disappointed in ourselves and talk frequently about what we “should do;” because, in our opinion we never do enough. We don’t pray enough, read the Word enough, witness enough.
But how does God look at us? He acknowledges the fact that by nature we are depraved, evil and worthy only of condemnation. But He then focuses fully on the fact that we are created in His image, chosen, forgiven, cleansed, adopted into His family, into His Kingdom, and into His plan. He loves us richly, deeply, unconditionally and eternally. He delights in us, rejoices in us, sings over us and cherishes us.
If we are humble, we will agree with God about both of these, and will focus primarily on how He forgives us, accepts us and loves us—and do the same to ourselves! We can admit we are like the tree in this picture: like us, it started out crooked, but then turned about and grew upright into a fine tree, just as Jesus has brought us to repentance and made us into His fine children.
When we begin to understand how much we are loved, there will be an ongoing transformation in us. As we “know this love that surpasses knowledge—[we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). And part of this fullness is viewing ourselves as He does. That is being humble!
So let us repent of our dissatisfaction with ourselves, repent of our focus on performance, possessions and looks, others’ opinions of us and instead, as a result of Christ’s sacrifice, forgive, accept and love ourselves as God loves us—and the resulting fullness will lead to a life of greater obedience (loving our neighbor as we love ourselves), as well as holiness, humility and honor for God.