Throughout the Scriptures, we can read the importance of being humble. Below are some of the examples in Psalms.
- LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear (Ps 10:17)
- For You will save the humble people (Ps 18:27)
- The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way (Ps 25:9)
- The LORD lifts up the humble (Ps 147:6)
- He will beautify the humble with salvation (Ps 149:4)
If humbleness is such an important trait for Christianity, what it is? The English word ‘humble’ means, having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s importance. 1 Unfortunately, humble in the Scriptures means more than what is mentioned in the English definition. Let’s explore what humble really means in the Scriptures.
Rejecting what we want to do
So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me.Exod 10:3
Pharaoh does not want the Hebrew slaves to go but God wants them to go out of Egypt. When God is asking Pharaoh to humble before Him, He is actually asking to do what He wants to do not what Pharaoh wants.
Rejecting what we desire
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every [word] that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.Deut 8:3
The children of Israel desire to eat fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Num 11:5) but God humbled them by allowing to hunger and fed them with manna. Hence, humble means to do someone’s desire rather than our own.
Rejecting our will
And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.Deut 21:14
In the above example, the captive was humbled against her will to be taken as a wife. The same theme of humbling is also echoed in (Judg 19:24) where it refers to woman being raped against her will. Hence, humbling is rejecting our will.
Rejecting our honor
So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”Luke 14:7-11
Jesus taught us a parable to show how we must not desire honor. To humble ourselves means to reject honor. We can see in Scriptures how David humbles himself before God by dishonoring himself (2 Sam 6:21-22), Ahab humbles before God in sackcloth to escape condemnation (1 Kgs 21:27-29) and Josiah humbles before God in sackcloth (2 Kgs 22:11-19).
But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.Matt 23:11-12
Hence, humbling ourselves in rejecting our honor and becoming a servant of all.
Rejecting the trust in our righteousness
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise [his] eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.Luke 18:9-14
Christ never asked to reject our righteousness (Matt 5:20) but He taught us not to trust on them to commit iniquity (Ezek 33:13) as we can read in the above parable. The above parable is one of the most misunderstood parables. Many think that there were two people, one a Pharisee and the other a sinner. This is totally wrong.
Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”Luke 3:12-13
The job of publicans collecting tax to Romans is not a sin as we can see from the above advise of John, but they are always tagged with sinners by the Jews, as mentioned in gospels e.g, ‘tax collectors and sinners’ (Luke 5:30). While the Pharisee filled his heart in pride, thinking that he doesn’t require any justification for his sins, the tax collector humbled himself to be a sinner, even though Jesus never mentioned any sin for the tax-collector in the parable.
When I say to the righteous [that] he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die.Ezek 33:13
The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness and never even requested any justification. This is exactly what the Father taught, that is, we must not trust in our own righteousness to commit iniquity. However, there are several who deceive and are deceived in thinking that they are saved by trusting in God’s righteousness but commit iniquity with the excuse of saying they don’t trust in their own righteousness. If you read the Father’s words (Ezek 33:13) and the Son’s words (Luke 3:12-13), we can clearly see that is not what God teaches us. Hence, being humble is not trusting in our own righteousness but seeking to do His righteousness (Matt 6:33)
Conclusion: Humbling is denying ourselves
Then He said to [them] all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.Luke 9:23-24
Humbling before God is doing what He desires and not what we desire. It is doing the will of the Father in Heaven and not our will. It is honoring Him and not seeking our honor. It is seeking His righteousness to do them and not trusting in our own righteousness to commit iniquity. In short, humbling before God is denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily and following Jesus Christ.
1 Oxford Dictionaries | English. “humble | Definition of humble in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English. n.d. Web. 7 May 2019. <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/humble>