A Deep Dive Into Humility, Part 7: Humility How-To

June 9, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

We have spent several weeks considering the definition, examples and importance of humility. Humility is living in light of God’s assessment of our nature, position, abilities, and calling. Jesus and Paul are great, biblical examples of humility. Satan is the perfect anti-example. Humility is essential for our relationship with God and with others. Let’s talk about the how-to. 

How does one grow in or develop humility? 

Admittedly, there is no clear statement in the Bible about how to grow in humility. But I think Jesus gives us the closest description in Matthew 18:3-4. Starting in verse 1, we read: 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus puts forward a child as a model of humility. There are parallel statements in verses 3 and 4 that emphasize the parallel between humility and childlikeness. In verse 3 Jesus says. “unless you turn and become like children;” and in verse 4 he says, “whoever humbles himself like this child.” We grow in humility when we “turn and become like children.” What is it about becoming like a child that fosters humility? 

Jesus does not commend every childlike characteristic. For example, he does not commend childish thinking, but calls his disciples to be “wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). The context of Matthew 18 helps us understand what sort of childlike characteristics Jesus commends. In verse 1 we learn that the disciples are concerned about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Then Jesus commends childlikeness. In contrast to seeking our greatness, Jesus commends the following: 

  1. Unpretentiousness – This is defined as “not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed.” Unless trained or conditioned, young children are not concerned with impressing others. We grow in humility when we are unpretentious like children. This only grows when we do not live to impress or please people. 
  1. Contentment – If you have ever been in a toy store with a three-year-old, perhaps you do not think of children as models of contentment. The point, however, is that a child often is content with less than with what an adult would be content. Consider Psalm 131:2, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” The child who is content with his mother is put forward as a model of a calm and quiet soul. Jesus’ disciples were not content with their callings as his disciples. They wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. So humility grows as we grow in contentment with all that God has given us. Contentment grows as we develop an attitude and habit of gratitude. 
  1. Dependence – I am sure you have heard the phrase “childlike faith.” It is implied in Jesus’ words of Matthew 18:3-4, but is emphasized more clearly in Mark 10:15, where Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines faith as “receiving and resting in Jesus alone for salvation.” What makes faith “childlike” is the dependence on the Father when receiving his blessing. Young children are utterly dependent on their parents for sustenance and protection. In a healthy scenario the child receives, without question, the provisions from his parents. That is how we are to receive God’s blessings. They are good and perfect gifts we are to receive with joy and gratitude. We grow in humility as we grow in our trust and delight in God and receive his blessings. This grows as we grow in our understanding of God and his ways from Scripture. 

We grow in biblical humility as we become like children in our unpretentiousness, contentment, and dependence. We grow in humility as we approach God as his beloved children. This relational perspective is key in living in light of God’s assessment of ourselves.




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