The Bible gives a definition of humility based on the life of the one truly humble person - Jesus.
In college, this passage was all I studied for one entire class. Because of that, it's one of my favorite scriptures. Philippians 2:3-11 says:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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."
The words I underlined tell us what our inner thoughts and attitudes should be, but it also gives us a picture of our posture and the purpose for our humility. Figurative (and sometimes literal) knees bent. Hearts set on others above ourselves. Content to obey. Ready to serve. Willing to sacrifice for someone else's betterment.
How does this definition of humility compare with your definition of humility?
God gives us the option of humbling ourselves. After all, we possess free will to choose our attitudes. God wants us to know the blessing and contentment of being humble. But God's patience runs out with those who refuse to be humbled, who think higher of themselves than they should. Matthew 23:12 says, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather humble myself than have God humble me. Have you ever been humbled by God? It's painful when our will is broken. But God's discipline doesn't last long and it's always for our good. Because in the end, He is still merciful and gracious.
God promises these things to those who have achieved a bit of humility:
Proverbs 11:2: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 15:33: The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
1 Peter 5:5: ...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Matthew 23:12 again - if we exalt ourselves, God is going to humble us and I bet it's going to hurt. But if we take the first step and submit to God's authority and humble ourselves - in whatever situation we are in - God will exalt us.
Remember my story about how God humbled me? Well, I didn't finish it. God exalted me and gave me honor because of an act of humility. When I offered myself to be my boss's assistant, I did it out of humility. I felt God leading me to do it. Not long after that, our big boss, Tommy, brought me up in front of the whole staff and used me as an example. In front of our entire staff, he praised me and "exalted" me. It was uncomfortable, but he told me in private that he wanted other staff members to know that this is the kind of person he wants on staff and he hoped that it would empower others. I know that God has done great things with my ego because I didn't feel the slightest bit of pride in that moment. And I'm thankful that God has humbled me in the past; otherwise, this moment never would have happened.
Who do you have trouble being humble around? Why?
In what areas does pride overtake you?
Do you humble yourself before God and others or is your heart too hardened?
Pray for God to soften your heart and help you to submit to others in true humility. Once you are freed from the burden of selfish pride, your life will be less stressful and you will be content to serve God and others.