One of my confessed guilty pleasures is the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. The bad boy in the strip is a rat cleverly named Rat. In a recent strip his long suffering friend Goat (you guessed it…he's a goat) offers this comment.
Goat: "You know, Rat, your ego is out of control. Have you ever heard of humility?"
Rat: "Yes. Humility is what you strive for when you've failed at everything else."
Humility is a virtue that is, in my humble opinion, seriously misunderstood. Many people adopt the philosophy of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright who offered this take on humility.
"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change."
Wright took obvious pride in his "honesty" and avoiding the hypocrisy of false humility. In some ways I prefer that over self condemnation as a way to appear more godly. You know the type. You say something nice about their efforts. They avert their eyes and assume the slumped stance of unworthiness while mumbling something like this. "Oh it's not me. I am but a wretch. In fact, I am the wretch the song is talking about. All praise be to Jesus."
STOP IT! Just say "thank you"! Thank you.
Somewhere in that heresy of wretch identity is something to build on. You were a wretch. That is what the song is saying. That is not who you are now. Now you are saved from condemnation. Free. A saint. The wretch phase of your life is photoshopped out in God's eyes. He sees Christ in you.
Peter seems like an unlikely choice to offer tips on humility based on his early adventures. But he learned humility as he matured in grace and wrote this to the church.
And all of you, serve each other in humility, for
"God opposes the proud
but favors the humble."
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (I Peter 5, NLT)
Paul wrote beautifully about humility and imitating Christ.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2, NIV)
True humility frees us from self and allows us to be loved by God and then to love others selflessly. Pastor Rick Warren wisely notes that "humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."
A.W.Tozer noted that "the (humble) man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life."
Humility comes out of some foundational truths. Believing that I am created in the image of God. Because of the grace of God I am justified through Jesus. I have a new identity in Christ. He has given me His righteousness. There is no longer any condemnation in Christ. There is nothing I can do to earn God's favor any more than simply trusting Him. As my friends at Truefaced say so well in their must hear message on grace…
"Humility is the key that opens the door to the room of grace."
I am not a wretch. Nor am I an indispensable cog in God's plan. I am simply His beloved child trusting in His grace and faithfulness for this day. The rest of it will work out.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning
sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded
by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.