August 6th 2009

True Humility

“When I consider your heavens,
the work 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?”
Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

The world has a jaundiced view of humility. When people think of examples of humility, perhaps they think of the obsequious character Uriah Heep, in Charles Dicken’s novel, David Copperfield.

Remember him? He went around telling everyone that he was “ever so ‘umble” but actually, this was far from the truth. In reality, he was plotting to blackmail his boss so that he could take over his business.

But true humility isn’t an act. It isn’t a persona we can put on to get our own way. True humility is about understanding our real position in the scheme of things.

The author Philip Yancey puts it like this:  “Humility is an accurate reflection of the truth. Most of what we are, our nationality, our race, our mother tongue, looks, body shape, intelligence, the time we live in, our health and strength, we have little or no control over. On a larger scale, we cannot affect the rotation of planet earth, or the orbit that maintains a proper distance from the sun so that we neither freeze nor roast, or the gravitational forces that keep our galaxy in perfect balance. There is a God and I am not Him.” 1

David meditated on this reality in Psalm 8. And when we, like David, reflect on our true position in the scheme of things, we see ourselves for what we really are. Tiny specks of dust. Little ants compared to the awesome power of God.

And the more we understand our smallness, the easier it is for us to appreciate God’s greatness. In fact that is the definition of humility. Humility is “having a modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.”

As writer John Andrew Holmes said, “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe is composed of others. With one trifling exception.” 2

True humility has nothing to do with putting on an artificial act of contriteness, like Uriah Heep, or being afflicted with low self esteem. True humility comes when we consider God and the wonders of his creation, then understand our relative importance in His great scheme.

Consider some of the benefits of striving to be a humble person: humility helps us to have a prayerful, repentant attitude. Humility helps us to be able to admit when we are wrong and helps us to maintain that all-important relationship with our creator that comes through repentance and forgiveness. A humble attitude is pivotal to our relationships both with God and with our fellow human beings. And being humble helps us to understand that true self confidence come in valuing what God thinks of us over what the world thinks of us.

The apostle Peter put it this way, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)

Once we understand true humility, once we recognise our importance relative to God’s and give our human pride over to Him, we can trust God to exalt us when the time is right. Because God values you far more than anyone else, even yourself.

Almighty Creator God, help us to be properly humble, recognising our smallness next to your greatness, and be thankful that despite our relative position in your great Scheme, you were so mindful of us that you were prepared to die for us in order that we might share eternity with you.

Study by Peter Mill

1. Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make It Any Difference? (2006)
2. John Andrew Holmes, Wisdom in Small Doses (1927)

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