Humility is emptiness of self; having no concern for your rights and your importance. A humble person doesn’t feel entitled to anything but wrath from God. In the last post I talked about the link between humility and seeing God clearly. We looked at Isaiah, Peter, and John the Baptist, three men who had a big view of God and therefore a low view of themselves.
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” – Isaiah (Is 6:5)
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – Peter (Mt 16:16, Lk 5:8)
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John the Baptist (Jn 3:30)
Cultivating humility begins with an accurate view of our Holy God and understanding that the only thing we deserve is wrath. But without the element of faith, you will stop short of true humility. Here’s what I mean: Yes, we need to understand that our God is holy and before Him we stand condemned. This is crucial. But we must also believe that He is who He says He is: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ex 34:6, Ne 9:17, Ps 86, 103, 145, Jl 2:13, Jn 4:2) Without an understanding of God’s bent toward grace and compassion, we will stop short of humility and end in self-pity.
To illustrate my point, let’s look at all the examples I gave in the last post and see how their faith played into their humility.
The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28)
This is the woman who comes to Jesus with a demon-possessed daughter and begs for her healing. Jesus essentially calls her a dog and says He will not help her. She responds with an amazing statement: “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” This woman had a low view of her own importance. It didn’t matter to her whether she was called a dog or not. She had no entitlement.
But, she also believed Jesus to be a good and gracious man. This is evident her response that “even the dogs feed on the crumbs.” Essentially she says to Him, I know you have something to give me. I know who you are and that you are gracious. Consequentially, Jesus praises her for her great faith and heals her daughter.
Without faith in a good and gracious Jesus, this woman would have gone home after the first rebuke and conceded to live with her demon possessed daughter and mourn over her lowly place in society (as a dog).
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
To most of us, this is a very familiar story. This son, who had sinned greatly against his father, is preparing his speech as he returns home. He has no sense of entitlement to be called a son, but is simply hoping to be a household slave in his fathers house. He has a low view of his importance.
But, he also believed his father (a representation of God) to be a good and gracious man. Without this belief, the son would not have made the journey home.
Without faith, this son would have stayed in the far country, eating pig food and living in poverty mourning over his foolish decision to leave home.
The Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
In a parable found in Luke 18, Jesus describes a tax collector who enters the temple and prays “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” He had a low view of his own importance. But He also believed God to be gracious and good, otherwise he would not have entered the temple or asked God for mercy.
Without faith, this tax collector wouldn’t have even attempted to enter the temple, but instead lived in a state of depression over his sorrowful spiritual condition as a sinner.
The Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:39-43)
This man, aware of his wrongs says “I am suffering justly, I am receiving what I deserve.” He is aware that the only thing he’s entitled to is his punishment. Yet, He believes Jesus to be gracious and good. He makes the request, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” He is requesting Jesus do something for him. Even amidst a low view of his importance, He perceives Jesus to be gracious and is consequentially promised salvation.
Without faith, this man would not have asked Jesus anything, but rather grieved his own poor choices, consenting to die in his sins.
Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
This blind beggar calls out to Jesus as He passes by with the shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This recognition of a need for mercy reveals his low view of himself. Yet, He believes Jesus to be good and gracious. This is evident as He continues to yell all the more to Jesus, even as others try to silence him. Bartimaeus had faith that Jesus was good and gracious, which fueled his relentless cries. Because of this, Jesus comes to Him and asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He then receives his sight.
Without faith, Bartimaeus would have sat in self-pity as Jesus passed by with the crowds, grieving his circumstances as a blind man that he could not follow after Jesus.
Without faith, a low view of your own importance is not enough. Without belief in a good and gracious God, a low view of self leads only to self-pity. And self-pity is still a form of pride (self-obsession). Instead of dwelling on how great you are, the focus is on how bad you are.
So to cultivate a humble heart, we must be aware of our poverty before God, and believe that our God longs to be gracious to those who are poor in spirit. Only these two things will produce a heart that forgets itself and obsesses over God.
Being occupied with self, even having the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self. It is the revelation of God not only by the law condemning sin but also by His grace delivering from it that can make us humble. The law may break the heart with fear; it is only grace that works that sweet humility that becomes joy to the soul as its second nature. It is the soul that finds God to be everything that is so filled with His presence there is no place for self.
It is the sinner basking in the full light of God’s holy, redeeming love, in the experience of that indwelling divine compassion of Christ, who cannot but be humble. Not to be occupied with your sin but to be fully occupied with God brings deliverance from self. – Andrew Murray, Humility