Leading The Way

by Ed Urzi

humility (hyōo-mĭlĭ-tē) 1. The quality or condition of being humble (American Heritage Dictionary) 2. A freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all that we have and are comes from God (Nelson's Bible Dictionary)

Is there any room for humility in a world that’s filled with trash-talking on the field, on the court, and at the mic? Well, let’s see what Jesus had to say on this subject in a conversation that He once had with His disciples…

“And so (Jesus and His disciples) arrived at Capernaum. When they were settled in the house where they were to stay he asked them, ‘What were you discussing out on the road?’ But they were ashamed to answer, for they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest!” (Mark 9:33-34).

It seems that the disciples were reluctant to answer Jesus’ question because an honest response would have been very uncomfortable for them. Of course, the fact that the disciples were talking and arguing over this subject says a lot about what the real issue probably was, for Proverbs 13:10 tells us, “Pride only breeds quarrels…” (NIV). But since the disciples were interested in knowing which of them was the greatest, Jesus showed them the right way to settle their argument…

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all'” (Mark 9:35).

In saying this, Jesus encouraged His followers to adopt a provocative way of thinking that was as radical in the 1st century as it is today in the 21st century. For example, people who are supposedly “the greatest” among us are usually those people who are the most talented or best looking or most physically gifted.

There are others who believe that the way to really be number one is to “do whatever it takes,” even if that means doing things like lying, cheating, or working to hold others back. While it’s common to see these attitudes at school or on the job, Jesus taught that those are the wrong examples to follow by using His own life as a pattern…

“…Jesus called them together and said, ‘Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him. But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many'” (Matthew 20:25-28).

Now it’s important to remember that the Biblical idea of humility is not the same thing as humiliation. Humiliation involves an action that causes feelings of shame, disgrace, or dishonor, especially when it occurs in front of others. OTOH, Humility is a positive personal characteristic that involves courtesy, respect, and a modest self-opinion.

Humility represents the kind of attitude that is the  opposite of things like conceit, arrogance, or pride. A humble person doesn’t boast about who they are or what they can do but recognizes instead that every talent, skill, and ability that they have is a gift from God.

The really great men and women of God in the Bible demonstrated the same attitude of humility that Jesus spoke about in the verses quoted above. For example, John the Baptist was someone who led by example in this area…

“(John’s disciples) came to John and said, ‘Master, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River-the one you said was the Messiah-he is baptizing too, and everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.’ John replied, ‘God in heaven appoints each man’s work. My work is to prepare the way for that man so that everyone will go to him. You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him-that is all… He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less'” (John 3:26-28, 30).

The Bible also gives us some insight into this subject through a letter that Paul the Apostle wrote to a friend named Titus…

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:1-2 NIV).

This portion of Scripture reminds us that our beliefs need to be backed up by our actions. You see, most people won’t ask you to provide a detailed statement of your spiritual beliefs as a Christian. All they really need to do is look at the way you live and see the choices that you make. That’s because your choices and lifestyle tell everyone about what you really believe. If people see you acting respectfully, humbly, and unselfishly, then those things will confirm that you’re really following Jesus’ teaching on humility.

So how can we apply this characteristic in our everyday lives? Well, Jesus once provided an illustration that we can customize and apply in many different life situations to demonstrate this principle in action…

“If you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t always head for the best seat. For if someone more respected than you shows up, the host will bring him over to where you are sitting and say, ‘Let this man sit here instead.’ And you, embarrassed, will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! Do this instead-start at the foot; and when your host sees you he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place than this for you!’ Thus you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored” (Luke 14:8-11).

Remember that God is the One who has allowed you to have anything that you may possess (see 1 Corinthians 4:7). This includes things like talent, skill, material possessions, and even time. Those who conduct themselves with humility honor the One who has given them everything they have.

“Humility and reverence for the Lord will make you both wise and honored” (Proverbs 15:33).