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What does the Bible say about humility?

Humility is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as "freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble." Some synonyms for humility are modesty, lowliness, and meekness. In our present culture, humility is often put on the back burner because everyone wants to be the BEST—or at least "better than the rest." But the Bible encourages us to act humbly. Philippians 2:3 says to "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."

Clothed in Humility

God says to clothe ourselves with humility (Colossians 3:12). This means that we conduct ourselves modestly and meekly and that we seek goodness for others just as much as we'd seek our own (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Some people may put on acts that make them seem humble, but their real motivation is to get recognition and praise. This is exactly what the Pharisees did. They wanted people to think they were humble and holy, seeking praise within their community rather than praise from God (John 12:43). “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5b).

We cannot "act" humbly outwardly and assume this means we have true humility in our hearts. True humility has godly motives that pour from a meek and humble heart. Actions and words of humility ought to be motivated by love and concern for others.

Trading in Spiritual Bankruptcy

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). "Poor in spirit" is a way of saying "humble spirit." We're nothing without Christ, and we cannot save ourselves from God's wrath. When we acknowledge that, we admit to complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy in the absence of Jesus. If you've accepted Christ as your Savior from the punishment of sin, then you've already acted in true humility by acknowledging your need for Him.

By accepting Christ, we tell Him, "I am nothing, and I have nothing to offer except my broken heart. Please save me from God's punishment for my sins and cover me with your forgiveness, love, and mercy." When we accept that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and came back to life, we're no longer spiritually bankrupt; instead, we are given abundant life (John 10:10). Jesus accepts everyone who comes to Him because God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).

Growing in Humility

Growing in our humility is a part of maturing and developing our faith—and it's a process. After we accept Jesus, we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) who are no longer controlled by sin (Romans 6:22). As the apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul called himself the "worst of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15) and the "least of the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:9). Why would Paul see himself this way? Because of his humility. Paul knew that anything good he did was only because of God.

When we're trying to judge how to respond humbly, we can look to our perfect example: Jesus. An examination of Jesus' life reveals what true humility is. His heart's motives were aligned with God's, and His actions made that clear. Jesus never sought the good of Himself, but the good of others and to glorify God the Father. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). His ultimate demonstration of love and humility was when He humbled Himself by taking on human form and dying on the cross to purchase God's forgiveness for us (Philippians 2:8).

Practice serving others in true humility. Place the interests of others over your own interests (Philippians 2:3). True humility is the exact opposite of pride, selfish ambition, and boastfulness. (Humble bragging is not humility!) Being humble is wise and honorable (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 18:12). God sees our humility as obedience and loyalty to Him. (See Philippians 3:3-9; 1 Corinthians 10:31) God will exalt the humble, and He will humble those who exalt themselves (Luke 14:11).

Remember that God doesn't expect us to do everything perfectly. As we stumble through life and try to grow in humility, God has so much grace for us (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). In time, humility diminishes our pride and selfish ambition because we begin to focus on God and putting others before ourselves.

"What is more, I [Paul] consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." —Philippians 3:8-9

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TL;DR

While the world has us striving to be the best and look out for ourselves alone, the Bible encourages us to act humbly (Philippians 2:3; Galatians 2:20). True humility stems from godly motivations in the heart and extends to our outward actions. Humility does not mean that we take a low view of ourselves; rather, it means that we conduct ourselves modestly and meekly and seek goodness for others just as much as we'd seek our own (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Writer: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

Writer/Editor: Catiana N.K.

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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