He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
“Rate your humility on a scale of 1 to 10.”
I read that statement on a questionnaire not too long ago and immediately wondered if it was a trick question. I mean, if I choose “one,” meaning I have little humility, isn’t that admitting an attitude of pride? If I choose “ten,” meaning I have a lot of humility, wouldn’t boasting of having humility also be an indication of pride? I was stumped as how to answer, so I left that question blank!
I think a question like that is a fairly good indication of the confusion that surrounds the subject of humility. We know that it’s a virtue and something that God requires (Micah 6:8), but how to go about cultivating it is not as clear. James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” That sounds like a command, but how does one go about “humbling” oneself? While we can understand what humility is (right thinking about yourself in light of God’s holiness), there aren’t really any self-help books or classes, nor any four step sermons or teaching sets on how to build it into your life. So, are we just left to guess what it means to “walk humbly with our God?”
Well, the interesting thing humility is that it’s not a character quality to be worked at or pursued. Humility is a by-product. It’s the natural, normal outgrowth in the lives of people who have encountered the Living God.
If you flip your Bible open to the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Chapter 6 records an incident in which the prophet had a vision of the Lord appearing to Him in majesty. Verse 1 describes God as “high and exalted” and “the train of His robe filling the temple.” The passage goes on to describe the mighty creatures who flew about shouting “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty!” In the presence of pure holiness, Isaiah immediately realized his own impurity and professed his utter unworthiness to stand before the Lord. The Apostle John had a similar reaction to his encounter with the glorified Christ who appeared to him during his exile on the island of Patmos to commission him to write the book of Revelation. John didn’t call out a greeting as you might expect from someone who had spent three years of his life with Jesus. Instead, he was absolutely overwhelmed at the majesty of Christ, and Revelation 1:7 says John “fell at His feet as though dead.” These are pretty standard responses for people who have had a real encounter with the Lord.
Christians today aren’t likely to have a face-to-face with Jesus until eternity, but humility is still a by-product of encountering Him. Since the Holy Spirit resides within every believer, (Eph. 2:22) God has given us the privilege of living in an personal and warm relationship with Christ every day. He longs to show Himself to you, but this requires something of you as well. John 14:21 says “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love Him and show Myself to him.” If you want to “see” the Lord and get to know Him in an intimate and personal way, it requires that we first know His commands (Scripture) and then obey them. That takes time and effort, but gradually you’ll find that He will reveal Himself to you as He promised, and pride, arrogance and self-promotion will slowly disappear. In their place will grow the sweet fruit of humility.