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Humility is a quality, attitude, or feeling of no self-importance that would make one better than another. It carries the idea of modesty, meekness, and even sweetness. The word has an Old French and Latin pedigree. In ecclesiastical Latin, we find some roots in “earth” or “earthiness.” Let’s be clear, however, that humility is not to be identified with someone walking around with a beaten-down appearance, flinching at every encounter. It is not walking about in sackcloth and ashes.

Living out biblical humility begins with a recognition of one’s indebtedness to God as the author and finisher of one’s faith. For pastors and elders, it means living with an acute awareness that all they have is a gift from God and that all they do is dependent on God’s grace.

Living out this humility involves imitating good examples. In the Bible, we have several. After all of Joseph’s accomplishments at high levels politically, he concluded that the low points as well as the highlights of his life were singularly attributable to God and His sovereign plan and dispensing of all things (Gen. 50:19–21). Some time after David was anointed as Saul’s successor as king, we hear David’s self-description as Saul pursues him: “After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea!” (1 Sam. 24:14). King David also described himself in all his regal glory as a worm (Ps. 22).

Humility is a quality, attitude, or feeling of no self-importance that would make one better than another.

Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of the prophets, and yet John summarized his own posture this way: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). How about the Apostle Paul? A Hebrew of Hebrews. Concerning the law, blameless. Yet, he claimed no fame but subordinated himself to the fame of Christ Jesus (Phil. 3). In all, Paul reminds us that our Savior is the model to follow and so we ought to “count others more significant than [ourselves]” (2:3). That is humility.

All this tells us how life under the sovereign plan of God should affect us. We have no reason ever to be proud. Arrogance should never cling to our clothing but rather the sweetness of our Savior. After all, Peter said, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” have come from Him (2 Peter 1:3). Ours is to be the humility of great King Jesus, who subjected Himself to the humiliation of this sin-filled world, even to an unjust and cruel death on the cross. Living under the banner of God’s sovereign plan for our lives produces the same humble life.

What about when pride does well up in us? After all, we all struggle with pride. The answer, of course, is repentance. As Martin Luther came to see, repentance is not a one-time or occasional act but a continual life of contrition—the acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and turning from sin. For ministers and elders, this will surely include confession to self, others, and God concerning our sins in word, thought, and deed. Ministers and elders will find themselves asking forgiveness from God and those whom they serve when their sin is laid before them. Indeed, we are to lead by example (1 Peter 5:3). God calls our parishioners to imitate our faith (Heb. 13:7). Dare we leave them to imitate our arrogance, pride, and roughness—in a word, our sinfulness? Rather, how about setting before them the sweet aroma of our Savior? When we sin and the aroma is replaced with a stench, we must be quick to repent; biblical humility demands this.

Many years ago, Albert N. Martin wrote a convicting booklet titled The Practical Implications of Calvinism. It was loaded with tidbits of biblical wisdom, but one that has remained with me over the years is this: you cannot believe in the sovereignty of God and be a proud Christian. A Christian is someone who has come face-to-face with the thrice-holy, living God. Isaiah’s response in that instance? He fell on his face in humble sorrow for his sin and only thereafter arose with a willingness to serve God. Arrogance has no place in the Christian life. Much more, then, pride and arrogance have no good place among ministers and elders as they live and lead. Let us all lean on the Spirit of the living God as we pursue the meekness that leads to an inestimable inheritance from our Lord and Savior.

Humility in Wives and Mothers

Humility and Church Unity

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From the January 2022 Issue
Jan 2022 Issue