Humility in Daily Life
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?” (1Jn.4:20).
Here’s a sobering thought: God measures our love for Him by the love we show our brothers and sisters in everyday fellowship with them. It is a serious thing to realize that our love for God just isn’t genuine if it fails the test of daily life with our fellow human beings.
The same thing is true with humility. It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God. But humility before people is the only real proof that our humility before God is more than just a figment of our imagination. It is the only true evidence that humility has made a home in our hearts and become our nature. How can we know that we, like Christ, have made ourselves of no reputation? By the reality check of daily life. When in God’s presence humility has become more than just a feeling we have when we think about Him or pray, but instead the very spirit of our lives, it will show itself in the way we treat our brothers and sisters.
This lesson is crucial. The only humility that really belongs to us is not what we try to show before God in prayer, but what we carry with us and live out when we get up off our knees. The insignificance of daily life is the test of eternity. It proves what spirit really possesses us. It is in our unguarded moments when we show who we really are. To know the humble man, you have to follow him around and watch his daily life.
Isn’t that lesson exactly what Jesus taught? His great teachings about humility came when He saw the disciples arguing about who was greatest, or the Pharisees competing for the place of honor at banquets and in synagogues. He taught again after He had given them an example by washing their feet. Humility before God is nothing if it isn’t proved by humility before men.
Paul of course taught the same practical lesson. To the Romans, he wrote: “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other…. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Rom.12:10,16). To the Corinthians, he said: “Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way” (1Cor.13:4-5). There is no love except what grows from the root of humility! To the Galatians, Paul wrote: “For you have been called to freedom…freedom to serve one another in love…. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another” (Gal.5:13,26). To the Ephesians, right after those three wonderful chapters about living in Heavenly Realms, he said, “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other” (Eph.4:2). “And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph.5:21). To the Philippians, Paul wrote: “Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself…. Your attitude should be the same as that Christ Jesus had…. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on the cross” (Php.2:3,5,7-8). Finally, to the Colossians, Paul said, “You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col.3:12). It is in our relationships, in the way we treat each other, that our true meekness of mind and humility of heart are visible. Our humility before God has no value unless it prepares us to show the humility of Jesus to our fellow men. Let us be diligent about humility in our daily lives in light of these words!
The humble person tries at all times to follow the rule, “Take delight in honoring each other, serve one another in love, think of others as better than yourself, and submit to one another.” Maybe you are wondering, how can I count others better than myself if I see them far below me in wisdom or holiness, in natural ability or spiritual gifts? The question just shows how little we understand what humility of mind really means. True meekness comes when we see, in the light of God, that we are nothing and agree that our lives must not be our own—so God can be all. When you can say, “I have lost myself in finding You, Lord,” you won’t be comparing yourself to others at all. You will have given up thinking about yourself in God’s presence. You will greet your fellow human being with the realization that you yourself are nothing. You won’t be trying to get anything out of it for yourself. You will be God’s servant and for His sake the servant of all. A faithful servant may be wiser than his master and still keep to the true spirit and position of a servant. The humble man looks at every child of God—even the weakest and unworthiest—and honors him as the King’s son. The Spirit of the One who washes feet will make it a joy for us to be the least, to serve others in love.
The humble man or woman feels no jealousy or envy. Humble people can praise God when others are blessed instead of them. They are unshaken when others are praised and they themselves are forgotten. In God’s presence they have learned, like Paul, to say, “I am nothing at all” (2Cor.12:11). They have received the Spirit of Jesus, who refused to chase after recognition or honor.
Life on earth means that we will experience temptations to be impatient or irritable, to think resentfully or speak harshly. People around us will make mistakes. They will even sin against us. When humble people face that kind of test, they will bring up from their hearts a law that is written there: “You must bear with each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Col.3:13). They have learned that in putting on the Lord Jesus, they have “clothed themselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col.3:12). Jesus has taken the place that self used to have in their lives, so they don’t find it impossible to forgive as Jesus forgave. His humility isn’t a matter of constantly putting Himself down in His words or thoughts. He is tenderhearted. His heart is full of compassion and kindness, meekness and patience—the sweet spirit recognized as the heart of the Lamb of God.
Disciples want to grow, and they should. But their aim shouldn’t be just for more boldness, joy, contempt for the world, zeal, or self-sacrifice. Even pagan philosophers who write self-help books and preach self-improvement would embrace those goals! What set Jesus apart from all the good intentions on earth was the way He took up His cross daily. Death to self—becoming poor in spirit, meek, humble and lowly—was Jesus’ aim. That heart is what He brought to earth from Heaven. And that heart is how we show our Christ-likeness. We must die to self in our dealings with the lost, for sure. But most of all, we must pick up our cross in our dealings with God’s people—denying ourselves for them, as Jesus did for us.
Fellow Christian, please take a good, hard look at what the Bible says a humble person is like. And please ask those walking with you whether they recognize in you a reproduction of the Original. Let’s not settle for anything less than believing that each of the scriptures we have looked at is a promise of what God can and will do in our lives! Let’s take those scriptures as a description in words of what the Spirit of Jesus will birth inside of us. Let’s allow our failures and shortcomings to drive us to the arms of the humble Lamb of God. Believe completely that where He is enthroned in the heart, His humility and gentleness will be one of the streams of living water that flow from within us.
Let me repeat: I feel deeply that we don’t even realize how much God’s people are suffering because they haven’t emptied themselves to make room for His power. When people try to serve Jesus together, all too often they find it impossible to be patient with one another, to love one another, to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. People who should have experienced the deep joy of working as partners instead are a hindrance and burden to each other. All for one reason—the lack of the humility that considers self as nothing and rejoices in being the least, and only wants, like Jesus, to be the servant and helper of others, even of the least deserving.
Why do people who joyfully commit themselves to the cause of Christ find it so hard to commit themselves to their brothers and sisters? Isn’t it because we have so little taught that the humility of Christ is the most important virtue and highest goal we can aim for by God’s Spirit? But let’s not be discouraged. Let the discovery that we lack humility motivate us to expect more from God than we’ve experienced. Let us look at every difficult, testing situation as an opportunity to grow. Let us look at difficult people as God’s instrument for our purification. The Life of Jesus is breathing inside our hearts! And let’s truly believe that God is everything and we are nothing, so that we may—by God’s power—seek only to serve one another in love.
“I knew Jesus, and He was very precious to my soul; but I found something in me that would not keep sweet and patient and kind. I did what I could to keep it down, but it was there. I besought Jesus to do something for me, and when I gave Him my will, He came to my heart, and took out all that would not be sweet, all that would not be kind, all that would not be patient, and then He shut the door.” (George Foxe)