A Misunderstood Humility
As a Christian culture, sometimes we are really confused about what humility is. We think being humble is saying something like:
If you are a good preacher: “I preach every Sunday, but I am terrible at it.”
If you lead worship: “I lead worship, but I am terrible at it.”
If you have a really strong prayer life: “I am terrible at praying.”
This isn’t humility. This is self-degradation.
This is done out of our good attempts to not boast in ourselves. On a lot of things, including humility, we have a tendency to over-correct and flip our car into the ditch.
If we want to understand humility, we look at Jesus. Paul describes the humble example of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus, though he was God, laid aside his divinity and became a man who was so obedient to his Father that he was willing to die on a cross for the sins of humanity. Thus, the passage shows that this is true greatness and that Jesus will be exalted forever in it.
That is the idea throughout Scripture. The sign of true greatness is a willingness to be humble. (Matt 23:12) But the humility that Jesus shows is not like what we try to do. He doesn’t come to earth and say, “I am the Son of God, but I do a really bad job at it.”
Jesus comes fully set in his identity as the Son of God and he takes his shirt off and bends down to wash his disciple’s feet. (John 13) He shows true greatness by thinking of others before himself, even though he is the only one worthy of anything.
Humility is not looking down on yourself but thinking of other people’s interests first. If you have a great prayer life or a great passion and talent for leading worship and then you say that you are terrible at it, what does that say about your view of the gifts God has given you?
No, we never boast in our skills. We don’t exalt ourselves over anyone. Rather, we know that everything we have, we have because God has given it to us. So therefore, we give him glory by being obedient to him and loving others and never think of ourselves.
This is true greatness, that the Son of God was so clear on his relationship with his Father that he becomes a fragile human and washes the feet of sinful humans.