What is humility?

Question
What is humility?
Answer

The Bible describes "humility" as meekness, lowliness, absence of self, or self-abasement. The Greek word tapeinophrosunen translated "humility" means "lowliness of mind" in Colossians 3:12. So, humility is a condition an attitude of the heart, not merely an outward demeanor.

God gives grace to the humble, while He opposes the proud (Psa. 51:17; 138:6; Prov. 3:34; 16:9; 1 Pet. 5:5). When one is saved by the grace of God alone they are to live in humility, in total reliance upon even more grace!

The foremost example of humility in Scripture is Christ himself. Philippians 2:1-11 states:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Since we don't fully understand and comprehend all who God is - we can't even look upon the Father's face and live (Exod. 33:20; John 1:18) - it is impossible to fully unpack all the wonders of this great text. This being understood, Christ, very God of very God, became a man. Think about this wonder of all wonders:

The Creator became the created.

The Infinite became finite.

The Immortal became mortal.

Taken within its proper context, this is wonderful theology, but we still don't get it, do we? Some examples may help:

The One who inhabited the beauty of Heaven itself was born in a dung infested cattle stall.

The uncreated One became created.

The omnipresent One became present in time.

The omnipotent One became dependent upon others.

The omniscient One had to learn how to talk and walk.

The eternal Word had to learn how to read.

The One who created of the waters became thirsty.

The One who created food became hungry.

The One who never slept became tired.

The One who flung the stars into space slept under those same wonderous stars.

The One who answered prayers had to pray Himself.

The One who created the angels had to be ministered to by them.

The One who was totally free became a slave.

The One without fault became sin for His people.

The most significant One became the insignificant One being numbered with the transgressors.

The One who created flesh had his flesh torn to shreds.

The crowned One in Heaven became a man crowned with thorns.

In finality, the beloved Son of God became the rejected Son of Man.

Christ died upon the very tree He made for this very purpose!

However, the One who died lived again! He sits at the right hand of glory. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, "Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory."

Only when we begin to unpack and understand what Christ willingly gave up can we begin to grasp the fuller meaning of the word "humility." Continuously resting in the humility of Christ makes His people more humble.

God forgive me for not understanding more concerning the glories of your humility.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).