The Surprising Truth About True Humility

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January 22, 2017

Proverbs 22:4

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

CONSIDER THIS

Sometimes it helps me to understand something when I reframe it according to it’s opposite meaning. For instance, todays text:

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.

When reframed it might look like this:

Pride is the absence of the fear of the Lord; its wages are poverty and shame and death.

The outcome here swings on the hinge of the “fear of the Lord.” Proverbs previously instructed us that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. Stay with my logic. If humility is the fear of the Lord and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then that makes humility the beginning of wisdom.

It begs the question: what then is humility? Humility is so often thought of as a set of behaviors that look like self deprecation and self abnegation. I think this is exactly wrong. Humility is the deeply human disposition of a person who has come to know and embrace their deepest worth.

Jesus shows us what it looks like. . . .

“who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing; and taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and found in the appearance of a man, he humbled himself. . .”

Take a look from this angle.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13.

See it there? Humility isn’t the noble decision to somehow lower yourself. It’s the audacity to embrace who you most truly are as a human being; a person whose worth is not earned from a performance but conferred upon by a Creator. The notion of earning one’s worth from a performance is the essence of pride. The notion of embracing one’s worth as a gift from God is the essence of humility. Pride enslaves me to the never ending bondage of distinguishing myself from others by becoming something other than what I am. Because all of my energy is directed at creating a false sense of self (propping myself up) I am prevented from embracing my true self. Because of my need to distinguish myself from others I can’t accept them either. James warns us about bitter envy and selfish ambition, characterizing them as the signs of false wisdom and nothing less than demonic evil.

Humility frees me to not only embrace myself but to accept others. After all, we are the same—all of us—equal. Even better, humility frees me to authentically love others because I can finally love myself. Even better, this kind of love finds its deepest springs in a love for God that flows out of God’s love for us. This is why humility is wisdom. It’s one of the things that most amazes me about Jesus washing his disciples feet. John characterizes that act as Jesus showing his disciples the “full extent of his love.”

Humility and the fear of the Lord are the beginning of wisdom, but the end of wisdom is the Love of God and the love of one’s neighbor as oneself.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 23.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, you had an intention and a purpose when you created me. Because I trust you I want to realize your intention and purpose for myself. Forgive me when my trust fails and I try to remake myself in the image of someone or something else. Come Holy Spirit and fix my eyes on Jesus. Teach me to behold him that I may become like him. It is in his name I pray. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Why are people bent on trying to make themselves into something they aren’t?

2. Is my own sense of self worth tied to my own performance or accomplishments, achievements or lack thereof?

3. What keeps me from deeply accepting and loving myself? And how does this keep me from deeply accepting and loving others?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. “The notion of earning one’s worth from a performance is the essence of pride.”

    It also takes a lot of energy—I was so busy “making myself worthy” and doing things “right”, there was very little left to share with others. If my motivation was pride, it was because I grew up with an understanding that “going on to perfection” was all about me and what I did—it was task oriented. And I “grew up” in the Methodist/United Methodist Church; my Methodist heritage/lineage is impeccable–it extends back to the 1700’s. What a relief to finally understand that “going on to perfection” is about what God does to and for me. What a relief to embrace the concept that I am not essential, but loved. I am now able to step back, take a break and focus on myself and others with love and kindness. It is also enabling me to step out into the unknown of considering a job I never anticipated or thought I was capable of doing—taking over the running of a business on behalf of my family. Who knew that after two college degrees, 20+ years of working in scientific research, followed by staying home to tend to my family, I would evolve into a shopkeeper? And I could not be more excited at stepping into this great unknown. In thinking about what my focus needs to be, Q&A 122 from the Heidelberg Catechism comes to mind; the answer is one of the several prayers that the catechism imbeds within the Lord’s Prayer:

    “Hallowed be your name” means:

    Help us [me] to truly know you,
    to honor, glorify, and praise you
    for all your works
    and for all that shines forth from them:
    your almighty power, wisdom, kindness,
    justice, mercy, and truth.

    And it means,

    Help us [me] to direct all our [my] living—
    what I think, say, and do—
    so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us [me]
    but always honored and praised.

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