Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., says, "Humility has been linked with better academic performance, job performance, and excellence in leadership. Humble people have better social relationships, avoid deception in their social interactions, and they tend to be forgiving, grateful, and cooperative. A recent set of studies also shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity. People who are humble tend to be more generous with both their time and their money" (PsychologyToday.com).
The above findings should come as no real surprise to Christians in light of the teachings of God's Word. However, without a doubt, we live in a narcissistic world. Self-promotion and self-aggrandizement are part-and-parcel of our secular culture. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest and YouTube tend to perpetual this societal epidemic.
Many individuals seek to be famous, idolized and even envied by others. Behind these unhealthy cravings is a profound spiritual emptiness on the one hand and over-inflated pride on the other. Now, there is nothing wrong with having a healthy sense of self-esteem and pride in who we are. But left unchecked, this propensity can quickly reach pathological levels in its intensity and sinfulness in its worldly pursuit.
The Bible teaches that, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18, ESV).
Proverbs 28:23 says, "One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor" (ESV).
In the New Testament, 1 John 2:16 warns, "For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world" (ESV).
Episcopal clergyman and author Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote, "The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is" (quoted in Burning Out for God, E. Skoglund, p. 11).
William Temple (1881-1944), Archbishop of Canterbury, defines humility as follows: "Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all" (Christ in His Church, 1924).
Thomas Merton asserts, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real."
There are several instructive scriptures on the topic of humility:
Micah 6:8 (ESV) says, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Matt. 18:1-4 (ESV) says, "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.'"
In Matt. 23:12 (ESV), Jesus states, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
James 4:6 (ESV) declares, "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" Then verse 10 continues, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you."
The apostle Peter promises, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:6, ESV).
Servant leadership is most beautifully and perfectly demonstrated in the humble example of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Philippians 2:1-11. He condescended from his former glorious status in heaven for our sin-sick souls' sakes, even to the point of dying on a cruel and shameful cross.
Paul Chappell states, "The highest model of leadership is cloaked in the lowest forms of humility" (Three Characteristics of a Servant Leader, 2012).
Therefore, true humility makes possible conversion to the Gospel, connection in community, cognizance of our own imperfections, consideration of others' needs, contentment in whatever situation one finds oneself, and a clear vision of and comfort in the knowledge of our everlasting hope.
Proverbs 15:33 (ESV) says, "The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor."
Let us, therefore, be humble followers of Christ.