Humility

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV).

In 1908, the British writer G. K. Chesterton described the our immature culture as postmodernism. One mark of its “vulgar relativism” (as Michael Novak calls it) is the hijacking of the word “arrogance” to refer to conviction and “humility” to refer to doubt. Chesterton saw it coming. He wrote:

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason. The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it’s practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

The essential nature of genuine humility is at the root of our reception of the grace to continue our journey in life. Think of how often humility would make every wrong easier to forgive and overcome. Think of how humility would make our interaction with all people so much easier. So, let me suggest five truths about humility.

  • Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).
  • Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got. Therefore humility does not return evil for evil. It is not life based on its perceived rights.
  • Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary. “Love rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
  • Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
  • Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it.

Make these your goals and all the rest will become much easier!