The Cross and the Humble
Humility. It's a confusing issue. The Bible is very clear that God hates pride and loves humility, but for the past few years I've struggled to grasp what, exactly, this elusive character quality is. And I think I've finally learned a few things about it.
Turning our gaze to the cross is the most effective way to kill pride. There is no room for the arrogant at the foot of the cross; and no room for me to be conceited when I see God crushing His Son for me.
I once read in a magazine one of those "true story" things where a girl wrote in and shared how she had received a life-saving transplant at the age of five. The man who saved her life became her hero, and even though he himself died in 9/11 as a firefighter, saving others' lives, she wrote that she tries to live her life to make him proud he saved it.
We ought to have a similar attitude, when we realize (which we never fully can) what God has rescued us from. Not to make Him proud, but out of our huge debt of love. We want to obey Him because of what He has done for us; we serve Him because we love Him.
And the essence of humility is keeping the eyes of our hearts fixated on the cross. Humility, in practical matters, does not mean trying to undermine our talents - when someone praises us, or we make the team or are recognized for something we really do well, humility is not putting ourselves down and saying, "Thanks, but I'm really not all that great." That's false pride. If you are talented, you are talented. But humility is knowing where the talent comes from. It's acknowledging that while you may be great at something, the greatness is not inherently in you, because everything you are and have is from God.
It's hard, because I know I at least like glory for myself. (That sounds really terrible in black and white, doesn't it?) And is suspect I'm not alone. CJ Mahaney reminds us how horrible that pride really is with his definition, "Competing in my heart for sovereignty with God." Ouch. When we give ourselves glory that should go to God, that is precisely what we are doing. Pastor Steve Brown quips on that issue that, "You think the Trinity should be expanded to include you!"
So the answer is we're never going to stop learning about and working towards humility. But only God can change our hearts; and the more we focus on His great love and redemption, the less there is room for pride and the more we will give Him the glory that belongs to Him. And that's humility.
(For more on this topic, I cannot recommend CJ Mahaney's book "Humility: True Greatness" highly enough!)
-- from the archives