A Deep Dive Into Humility, Part 8: A Theological How-To
June 16, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Last week I began to answer the question, “How does one grow in or develop humility?” I brought us to Jesus’ call to become like children in Matthew 18:3-4 as an answer to that question. As I have thought more about that call, I think we can call that the “Relational How-To.” We grow in humility when we see ourselves in relationship with God as children with a loving, gracious, and holy Father. Like children, we are utterly dependent on God for everything. When we live each day with that relational perspective, we grow in humility.
Today I want to answer the question with a “Theological How-To.” Our knowledge of God and his ways directly shapes and develops our humility. A.W. Tozer opened his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, by stating, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He builds the case that what we think about God shapes and impacts every area of our lives.
John Calvin opens his Institutes of the Christian Religion by stating, “True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” (Book 1. Chapter I. Paragraph 1). He wrestles with what comes first, knowledge of God or knowledge of self. He ultimately concludes that knowledge of God must precede proper knowledge of self. Therefore, we grow in humility when we deepen our understanding of God and his ways. Let me touch on some highlights of this theological how-to.
- Contemplation of God’s Majesty in Creation Humbles Us. David writes in Psalm 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
- Beholding God in his Holiness and Glory Humbles Us. When Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up,” and hears the seraphim calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,” he humbly responds, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Is. 6:1, 3, 5). As Calvin says, “We must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty” (1.I.3).
- A Growing Understanding of our Sin and God’s Grace Humbles Us. Paul reflects on his own testimony when he says, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
- A Deepening Recognition of Our Inability to Do Anything to Save Ourselves Humbles Us. Paul writes in Romans, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (3:20, 27).
- A Satisfaction and Resting in the Riches and Sufficiency of Christ Humbles Us. Paul makes a comparison of his worth with Christ’s worth and concludes, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7-8).
- Depending on Christ for Everything Humbles Us. Jesus plainly says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I can go on, but the point is clear: the more we grow in our knowledge of God and his ways, the more we are humbled before him. The more we know God, the better we understand our utter insufficiency and inability. Calvin writes, “Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward. Thus, not only will we, in fasting and hungering, seek thence what we lack; but, in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility” (1.I.1).
If you are not growing in your knowledge of God and his ways, you are not growing in humility. The study of theology is essential for life. Or as Tozer says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”