Self-effacement -- to gain face
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (v.5)
We said yesterday that humility has not been praised -- except by a few -- in any age. Ancient writers regarded the quality of humility as a "servile, grovelling spirit." People today seem to view it in the same way and place it alongside the cringing spirit of Uriah Heep -- "I am so very 'umble, Master Copperfield." Perhaps it was this confusion that led to Gladstone, one of Britain's past Prime Ministers, to say: "Humility as a sovereign grace is the creation of Christianity." In choosing "humility" as the best translation of the Greek word used in the list of the fruit of the Spirit
, we must be careful not to miss the thought that is contained in some of the other words used by translators, such as gentleness, meekness, forbearance, adaptability and tolerance. Threading them all together, we have a picture of this fruit of the Spirit as a gentle spirit of lowliness and humility with no arrogance but a joyous desire to serve.
Humility is not only misunderstood by the world; it is also largely misunderstood by the Christian Church. Some confuse it, for example, with self-belittlement. They think that by denigrating themselves or putting themselves down they are acting in humility. But by deliberately setting out to make themselves small, they are really trying to make themselves great. Self-effacement is their way of gaining face. They take the lowest place in order to be invited to go up higher. They express derogatory opinions of themselves in the hope that they will be contradicted. This is not real humility -- this is feigned humility: an unworthy substitute.
O Father, clarify my understanding so that I can discern between true humility and feigned humility. Help me to have a mind that is open to Your mind so that I comprehend all things clearly. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
For Further Study
1. What did Jesus teach the disciples?
2. How are we to think of ourselves?