[Jesus] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him(John 13:4–5, ESV).
Nowhere in the Bible are you told to “be humble.” You are instructed, “Humble yourself” (James 4:10). Jesus shows us how in John 13. Many Christians act humble—but humility is not an act-thing or a feel-thing; it’s a do-thing.
Humility is like exercise. Imagine if a friend told you, “I am thinking about exercise right now. Vigorous thoughts. I’m an exerciser. I’m cultivating the feelings that people feel when they exercise.” You would laugh, wouldn’t you? Exercise is a do-thing.
Helping falls in the same category: help is not a feel-thing; it’s a do-thing. If you were carrying bags of groceries in from the car, trip after trip, back and forth, and your friend stood and watched, thinking, I feel so helpful right now. I want to be a helpful person. I’m cultivating the mindset of helpfulness. I’m imagining the positive feelings associated with helpfulness, you would tell that friend to grab a bag!
Humility is something you do. Don’t be humble; humble yourself.
- When you receive a poor performance review or are passed over for a raise or promotion—humble yourself.
- When a co-worker cuts corners, snags the deal, or takes credit for your hard work—humble yourself.
- When something is taken that rightfully belongs to you—humble yourself.
- When your friends betray, desert, or disappoint you—humble yourself.
- When your life isn’t turning out the way you wanted—humble yourself.
- When you feel crushed under the weight of a crisis or a deep, bitter disappointment—humble yourself.
- When it feels so hard to love the people God has placed in your life—humble yourself.
That’s what Jesus did. Look again at John 13:4–5 and pick out the verbs. Jesus rose, laid, took, tied, poured, washed, and wiped. This wasn’t a ceremony. Hours before He went to the cross, the Lord expended energy and effort and got dirty for the sake of those He loved.
How can you show humility? Here are a few practical ways.
Ask for feedback. Ask your boss or spouse or teammate, “I want to do better. I want to be more effective. I want to be part of the solution. What can I do to improve?” Then listen.
Apologize first. Without defensiveness say, “I love you, hurt you, and made you feel things that I didn’t want you to feel. And for that, I’m very sorry.”
Pray. “Lord, I’ve been making excuses, blaming others, and putting this conversation off. I want to humble myself before You and acknowledge that everything You said is right. I want to hear You.”
Admit you have a problem. The first step in any real change is admitting you have a problem. What relief you could bring to your family if you humbly said, “I have a problem with _____.” God's grace flows to humility.
The list goes on and on. You can do this—take the lower position, believe the best about someone else, assume that your perspective isn’t the only one, etc. Take action and humble yourself. It’s a do-thing.
Why is Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet the ultimate model of humility?
As you consider His example, what humble action is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do?
Father God, the story of John 13 cuts through me. Your Son, the rightful King of the universe, humbled Himself to the lowest job and washed the disciples’ feet. Just as Jesus, my Lord and Teacher, washed the disciples’ feet (even Judas’s), so I also ought to wash others’ feet. I want to follow Your example. I choose to humble myself. Show me what humble actions to do today. In awe of Your Son I pray, amen.