Time and time again, I have written about how we are to love others. I have used John 13: 34-35 many times. Those verses read, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I have to often go back to that section of scripture to remind myself of who it is that I am supposed to be and how to treat others. I fully believe that loving others as Jesus has loved us is the chief characteristic for which we should strive. In my Bible reading lately, I think that I have found what should be a close second— humility.
I can go ahead and tell you that I feel hypocritical writing about how we should be humble. For most of my life, I have greatly struggled with being overly prideful. The sin of arrogance has permeated pretty much every aspect of my being. This even includes my faith. I strive to know the Bible and to know it well. That is a great goal for anyone, obviously. However, I would often use my biblical knowledge to show off how great I was or beat people down. I somehow got it in my mind that I was better than others because I could quote more scripture than them. Let me tell you this: there is no greater way to turn people off from the faith than being self-righteous. In recent years, God and life have done quite the job removing my pharisaic mindset. There is still work to do, but they are certainly making progress.
Pride is an interesting thing. We get taught from a young age that it is good. We are told that we should take pride in our country, state, school, family, job, accomplishments, achievements, and pretty much everything else. I don’t believe that pride is necessarily a bad thing. It is good to be proud of someone for something that they’ve done. It is good to be proud of yourself when you have completed a goal that you have set out to do. The issue is that we can quickly lose containment of our pride, and it starts to morph into us thinking that we are better than others. That is never an acceptable mindset in God’s kingdom. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all equal, period. This is the danger of pride. We place ourselves on a pedestal. When pride begins to run rampant in our hearts, it becomes like trying to put out a forest fire with a water hose. Before we know it, we start to think less of others. That is never how God’s people should think.
In A Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Humility is not about degrading or berating yourself. It is not about considering yourself less than. It is not about thinking that you are nothing. It is simply thinking about others above yourself. I believe Paul had something to say about that. This is what he wrote in Philippians 2:3–4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” That is what it is to be humble.
The heart of humility is trusting God. If we are to place others’ needs above our own, then we are forced to rely on God to fulfill ours. This is countercultural, at least in the U.S. We have it seared into our minds that we are to look out for ourselves and our loved ones above all else. We think that if we are not the ones taking care of everything, then things will fall apart. Remember the line from the Lord’s prayer, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)? We cannot be humble until we truly trust that God will provide for us. He will; he has promised us that.
I said at the beginning that humility is second to loving others. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin. To love others and to be humble are both done by laying down our pride and thinking about others more than ourselves. This is who God has called us to be. Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” There it is. All three of those things can be summed up loving others and trusting God. We are to be humble people. We are to try to rid ourselves of arrogance. This is what Jesus did. We see that by how he served those around him, washed the feet of the disciples, and willingly went to the cross. If Jesus did these things because he considered others above himself, then we have no justification to not do the same.
When explaining how to be humble, C.S. Lewis wrote this in Mere Christianity: “The first step is to realize that one is proud.” We need to find those places where we think of ourselves as better than others, and then pray for God to remove that pride from us. Alongside that, we need to love those around us and trust God to take care of us. Only then, we can be humble. Only then, we can do what it is that the Lord has required of us.