A Quest for Humility: Humility, Self, and the Harvest
“This is the one I esteem [says the Lord]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
“All of you, cloth yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
“With the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
“Humility is the first of all virtues—especially for other people.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Consider this sober assessment of the importance of humility from the pen of the saintly Andrew Murray,
“Pride offends God…humility affirms him. Through pride an angel of light was transformed into a demon of darkness…by humility the Son of God became the Son of Man. Through pride came death…by humility comes life. Through pride the first Adam sinned…by humility the last Adam saves. Through pride men resist the truth…by humility they revel in it. Through pride men seek to rule…by humility they learn to serve. Through pride men are condemned to Hell…by humility they are consecrated for Heaven. So that in the end, everything in which men have boasted and for which in the arrogance of self-will they have labored, will be brought to nothing. Whereas all who have humbly taken up their cross and followed the Lamb of God will, in that hour, feel the finest triumph known to man—eternal life!1”
Biblical humility involves at least three things: 1. An attitude of complete dependence upon God. 2. Freedom from a sense of one’s own self-importance. 3. An honest concern for others. As such, humility is one of the most mentioned and encouraged of all Christian virtues2. Let’s look at each of these aspects of humility for a moment.
First, to be dependent on the Lord means that we confidently trust and rely upon him. The opposite of dependence, or reliance on God, is independence, or defiance of God and reliance on self. From personal experience, I can say that it only takes a couple of times of brokenness from relying on everything other than God to teach us that we don’t have the strength, talent, or resources to meet our own needs. What is sadly true is that those who are “weak” tend to learn this lesson more quickly than the “strong”–who sometimes inadvertently resist the inexorable3 and universal truth: thathuman beings are God-dependent creatures. Like the country preacher said: “The Good News is that there is a God—and you aint him!” According to the Apostle Paul, once we learn that God wants us to so radically depend on him, then we can revel (or glory) in our weakness—the acknowledgment of our human condition (2 Corinthians 12:5-10. Such an acknowledgment of human weakness is actually the path to divine strength and provision. Is there something about which you are struggling right now? Embrace the weakness of your humanity and confess with brokenness your need for divine intervention. Then patiently and gratefully wait for him to reveal his provision.
The second and third aspects of humility are related: humility frees us from a sense of our own self-importance in order to be genuinely concerned about others. Ever notice how a young child assumes that he or she is the center of the universe? I mean, it is as if other people do not even exist. This self-centeredness is destined (around puberty) for a collision with the reality that other people also occupy the planet—let alone one’s own householdJ Furthermore, if one is to have a peaceful life, then must learn how to live in relation to others. This “collision of the self” (with the existence of others) is as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the natural realm. The natural man tries to solve the conflict by asserting, or dare I say “actualizing4” himself.
The spiritual man must go beyond the natural need of social integration to the place of a servant. In this sense, a Christian is called to both “love” oneself and to “deny” oneself. On the one hand, we must “love” ourselves in order to appropriately take care of our personal needs, as well as to relate to others in healthy ways. After all, a low self-esteem can lead to self-loathing and even self-hatred. Such people are prone to abusive relationships or even thoughts of murder or suicide. On the other hand, we must “deny” ourselves if we are to be servants of Christ. We are not here to simply serve ourselves—regardless of how much people may trumpet our praise and accomplishments in the process (Matthew 6:24-27). What we are here to do is to serve Christ by caring for others in his Name. And even when their natural needs are met, as they must be, there still remains the greater and most desperate need of humanity: spiritual and eternal salvation in Christ (1 Timothy 1:18; John 3:16).
What occupies your time, efforts, and resources my friend? Are you still striving to actualize or fulfill the self, or are you spiritually maturing to a place where you are daily engaged in the “work of the harvest.” For unless you and I are sufficiently delivered from self we will never realize the Lord’s call as servants of his harvest. To that end, may our quest for humility be so rewarded by the Lord. Amen.
“Have you not said, ‘There are four months more until the harvest’? But I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest even now!” (John 4:35-36a)
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will raise up and send forth workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
“The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God.” (C.S. Lewis)
Let the lord be magnified
 Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” calls for self-actualization whereas Viktor Frankl calls for self-transcendence in Man’s Search for Meaning. In my mind, Frankl’s idea is much more akin to Jesus’ teaching in this regard. If you have not yet read Frankl’s text I recommend you do so.