I believe that humility is the root of every virtue and its opposite - any arrogance, pridefulness or pretentiousness - is the root of every evil, every failure of faith. We could probably agree that a humble spirit is one which serves God and others and that, as Christians, we are to follow Jesus' example as servant and sacrifice.
But do we act that way?
Do we embrace humility?
I've been to many a Christian conference and, in America, a Christian conference is a capitalist's dream! There is always a bookstore or book sales room (not to mention other vendors) with product piled high. I was once at a conference on spiritual formation and the main lobby was filled with tables that the vendors could hardly keep filled with books, they were selling so fast. I stood there watching the buying and selling and I noticed that at one table there was a tall pile of books that no one was touching. I couldn't imagine what Christian author might not sell at an event where people came, determined to get insight from the best writers available.
I went over to check it out. The book was Humility, by Andrew Murray. No one wanted that.
The demands of humility by any definition do not sit well with the citizens from the land of the free, which essentially means "No one can tell me what to do." To resist the cultural call and move towards a humble life is an unexpected discipline because the depth of my arrogance, pride, and pretentiousness runs deep. Yet, without humility, it is clear that I will make no gains in the faith, for humility gives room for God to be all in my life.
The weight of the significance of my worship of Jesus Christ now bares down. Do I allow for His example of life to actually impact mine? If so, the study of the humility of Christ is the only example I need to follow.
Jesus told his listeners how to engage humility first and foremost through his dependence upon his Father. He recognized that he was sent by God and was only doing the work God was doing already. He was doing God's will. In fact, he could do nothing by himself, not even teach. His doctrine even came from the Father; his authority came from God. (John 5:19; John 8:42; John 5:17; John 5:30; John 7:16; John 14:10)
Jesus sure looked powerful, healing the sick, teaching with authority, rebuking whoever needed it, but he was humble enough to know where it came from. He knew how to give credit to his Father who empowered him.
Am I cognizant of my own power source? Maybe I once thought I held personal power, something from deep within me, but I have failed myself too many times to believe that anymore. In crisis, I am berefet of even direction and sense sometimes; I can end up in an emotional puddle. Left to myself, no good comes from me. But with God in me, that all changes. Humility does not say that I don't hold power, but that I know from where it comes.
As Jesus knew to give credit to the Father, he demonstrated the nature of worship - to give credit where credit is due. That meant he did it for the glory of God and not himself. He didn't want to receive honor from men. This self-renunciation was not about ducking his head, but putting God first and foremost, gladly.
I wonder if humility is not about making ourselves less, but making God more. That if any any good comes from us, if any rightness comes from us, if anyone gets served, then the greatness of those acts are not to be diminished by a false humility but instead glory should be given to the One who made it possible.
Yet, Jesus was meek and lowly. It meant he yielded. He yielded to the Father and left heaven for earth. He served those around him. He yielded to the cross so that we could be saved. So, we yield - on the street it means we only proceed when others have passed, then we proceed cautiously. Jesus' model says that good should come and God should be thanked and glorified.
I like this metaphor for humility: we are not the water, only the vessel. When someone is thirsty, they aren't grateful for the glass, but to the water which slakes their thirst. Be a worthy water jar! It's a discipline to know our place.