A Deep Dive Into Humility, Part 3: Two Examples

May 5, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

Last week I proposed this definition of humility: living in light of God’s assessment of our nature, position, abilities, and calling. The challenge with defining humility is taking into account the model of Jesus. Many definitions of humility focus on honesty about our shortcomings and limitations. These definitions cannot apply to Jesus, and could lead us away from, not toward, humility. True, biblical humility is the posture of living in light of God’s assessment of us. How does God view us? How does this impact how we live? Two biblical examples will be helpful. 

Let me start by drawing our attention to Jesus again. When Paul puts forward Jesus as an example of humility in Philippians 2, he draws attention to the actions that flow from Jesus’ humility: emptying himself and self-sacrifice for others. To understand Jesus’ humility, however, we need to look to Jesus’ relationship with his Father. Paul says in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus is willing to submit to his Father’s will, which even included Jesus’ incarnation and death. 

The writer of Hebrews explicitly highlights Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will in 10:5-7, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’” 

This submission to the Father’s will is seen throughout Jesus’ ministry. In John 5:19 he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” In his high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus says, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (v. 4). And then in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). 

Jesus’ example of true humility demonstrates that humility is living in light of God’s assessment and will. Jesus followed God’s lead every step of his life. Jesus knew his position and calling, the terms of which were established in eternity past in the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son. 

Humility does not make one to wallow in self-pity or lack confidence. True humility does the opposite. Jesus lived each day with his Father’s affirmation strengthen him (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” Matthew 3:17). We see this also in the example of the apostle Paul. Perhaps we might think Paul is wallowing in self-pity when he writes in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He doesn’t stop there, however. 

With one of my favorite adversative conjunctions, Paul puts his humility on display through an exaltation of God’s grace. He writes in verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” In verse 9, Paul gives an honest assessment of his sinfulness. In God’s assessment, our sin disqualifies and disables us from being productive for the church. But in the assessment of God’s grace, we are called and enabled to produce fruit for God’s glory. 

Paul’s example shows us that true, biblical humility allows our sin to undermine self-reliance and self-confidence, while also drawing strength and confidence from God’s grace to be fruitful in the calling he has placed on our lives. There is no self-pity and lack of confidence in true humility. 

Both Jesus and Paul are model examples of humility. Neither were self-directing or self-promoting. They both looked to God for his will and direction. They both drew strength and confidence from God’s grace to sustain them. They both were fruitful in their callings to serve the Lord. They both demonstrate that humility is living in light of God’s assessment of one’s nature, position, abilities, and calling.


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