“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind” (Colossians 2:18 NIV).
Although the word “false” is not found in the original language of this verse, the context of this passage clearly references a type of humility that is less than genuine. The hypocritical and dishonest nature of this kind of “humility” is reflected in two penetrating questions attributed to John Wesley, the 18th century minister and Methodist leader…
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
With this in mind, we can say that false humility is a characteristic of those who seek to promote a seemingly modest appearance as a way of eliciting praise from others. Consider the following cautionary message from Jesus to His followers…
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-6 NIV).
To quote another famous 18th century commentator, “It looked like humility to apply to angels, as if men were conscious of their unworthiness to speak directly to God. But it is not warrantable; it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only, and giving it to a creature. There really was pride in this seeming humility.” (1)
(1) Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/Col/Against-Worshipping-Angels