Thursday, November 03, 2005

To Ariel on Humility

Ariel of BitterSweetLife is asking for comments on humility. I'm not sure I have much business commenting but that seemed all the more reason to focus on it. Here are some thoughts I had while doing a Bible study on humility last night.

False humility
There's some focus in Paul's letters on how annoying false humility can be. I wonder how much "focusing on our humility" might give an occasion for false humility. First, there's the danger of focusing on ourselves which is not exactly what humility is about. Then there's the temptation to be proud if we happen to do well.

Humility and the Chief of Sinners
The pastor who made the strongest impression on me only ever used one example of a sinner: himself. No matter what the occasion where he had to point out sin, he always pointed it out in his own life and passed by public putdowns of other people. He also passed up the much easier road of having some nameless, faceless sermon-example sinner. He made it plain that the sin he was struggling with was the sin in his own life. He had the idea that Paul had: the Chief of Sinners -- the biggest sinner we have to worry about -- is ourselves.

Humility and temptation
Those who are humble are better equipped to handle temptation. "Pride goes before the fall" -- and sometimes the pride is imagining that we can't be tempted, we've spiritually progressed beyond that. (As if.) James joins the ideas of pride and temptation, and humility and submission, not really mincing words but calling the proud "religious" folks double-minded, friendly with the world, and at enmity with God. It's very true that temptation has its easiest time when I'm proud.

Humility and reverence
Paul links humility with refraining from complaint and argument. "Do everything without complaining or arguing" -- and what gives voice to complaints and arguments except pride? What appreciates the greatness in someone else except humility?

Humility, honesty, and repentance
Pride says we have no sin; pride is a liar. Humility confesses our sins -- and God has pledged to forgive and cleanse those who turn to him humbly. Humility is more honest than pride.

Humility and wisdom
James says that wisdom leads very naturally to humility; true wisdom (God's wisdom) is not a puffed-up thing but is humble. The wiser we become, the more we realize that we are not actually deserving of being the centers of the universe and that pride is not nearly as useful as humility. Pride puts down other people; humility lifts up other people.

Humility and learning
The book of Proverbs links humility and learning. If we think we already know it all, not only are we dead wrong but our growth is stunted because how could there be any more room to grow? How could we let someone teach us if we think we're better than they are? Pride is the enemy of both friendship and growth; humility encourages them both.

Humility and service
Christ himself was humble -- so humility is not for those who are not good enough to aim for "loftier" virtues. In fact, humility challenges the idea of "loftiness" when it comes to virtue.

Humility and submission
Ooh now isn't "submission" a dirty word these days? It conjures up images of tolerating or silently condoning abuse -- nothing good comes to mind. But right up there with admitting we are not perfect and admitting we do not know it all is admitting that there are times when we owe it to someone else to listen to them. In the case of God, we owe it to him, both from love and from trust, to follow. If we are humble enough, we might even appreciate his greatness and realize how fitting it is to bow to him. Some who have progessed down that path remain continuously aware that it's a profound honor to serve God.

My studies mostly pointed out that I'm really bad at humility and have a lot of growing to do. It's a good thing that Ariel brought up the subject and challenged me to answer.


Ariel said...

I like these thoughts a great deal! Specifically, several things resonate:

1) The idea that "focusing on humility" can easily cause false humility. Touche! That's why our attempts must be empowered by Christ.

2) In terms of object lessons, I am the most convenient example of pride. So much so that looking elsewhere is hardly necessary...

3) Humility is more honest than pride. Excellent.

4) Pride stymies both friendship and growth.

5) Humility stomps on the idea of "lofty" virtues.

Thanks very much for the thoughts; I hope you reap some benefits from your exploration.

Camille said...

hey Mr Fisher,

nice breakdown! I found myself nodding in agreement as I went down your list.