Humility is the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations, based on understanding that every person is potentially God’s representative in human interactions with you. Humility manifests as an invitation with promise—promise of care and diligence regarding the needs of others; promise of appreciation for others and any goods or service they provide; and promise of obedience to the authority of others—conveyed to them more by attitude than spoken or written words.
We discuss three instances of Christ teaching regarding humility: to understand the meaning and importance of humility in human interactions. First, we discuss Christ teaching among dinner guests, where he explained a defining principle of humility: humble yourself that you may be exalted and honored by others; or the opposite, exalt yourself and you likely will be humbled and humiliated by others. Through his interactions with the dinner guests, Christ defines humility as the quality of expecting others to be greater or better than you in one or more considerations.
Second, we discuss the humility of a child based on Christ teaching. We see that a child personifies humility according to the defining principle, because of the intrinsic characteristic of childhood to expect others to be greater or better. Therefore, Christ introduces the humility of childhood as defining a standard that God expects of every person.
Third, we discuss an example based on the humility of David to understand that humility entails respect and submission to lawful authority. He was anointed to be king but recognized the authority of the people to select him as their king. Therefore, he waited patiently in humility for seven years after the death of his predecessor, until the people of Israel made him king.
Finally, we discuss Christ teaching on humility in the Sermon on the Mount, where he described the promise of blessing for humility toward God and humility in human interactions.
Humility promotes an environment conducive to fulfilling God’s purpose for every person to represent him in interactions with others. It manifests as an invitation, by action or words, and conveys a promise to be respectful of others, polite, attentive, responsive, peaceful, and truthful in human interactions. The invitation offers promise of goodness; promise of care and diligence; promise of appreciation; and promise of obedience—overall, essentially a promise to be available and willing to provide service to benefit others, accept and appreciate service provided by others, and submit to and respect others’ authority. We discuss humility from Christ teaching and an example from David waiting seven years to be made king by due process after the death of the preceding king.
David was anointed to be king of Israel and was expected to become king at the end of Saul’s reign. However, after Saul died, David waited additional seven years to become king of Israel. He did not announce himself king or seek in any way to coerce the people into making him king. Instead, in his humility he waited to be made king by the people according to due process. In this study, we discuss the humility of David in the context of a general understanding of humility based on Christ teaching. We focus on Christ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount; interactions with his disciples, when he explained humility as the greatest virtue; and interactions with guests at a dinner party, when he explained the humble will be exalted.
Humility in the Sermon on the Mount
Humility is important in Following God’s Schedule. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ describes humility as one of the guiding principles of Living in the Image of God (see Following God Schedule by Living in His Image). He describes humility toward God and toward other people. Humility is important to committing to the responsibility of representing God in human interactions: by seeking and following his directions [Blessed are the poor in spirit] through repentance of sin [Blessed are those who mourn] and humility [Blessed are the meek].
This study focuses on humility in human interactions, which manifests as an invitation and conveys a promise to be respectful of others, polite, attentive, responsive, peaceful, and truthful in interactions with others. The invitation is conveyed through action and words and is essentially a promise to be available and willing to provide service to benefit others, accept and appreciate service provided by others, and submit to and respect others’ authority. Furthermore, the invitation offers promise of goodness; promise of care and diligence; promise of appreciation; and promise of obedience.
Promise of Care and Diligence conveys a message that the person can be relied upon to recognize when he/she is in position to provide for a need, recognize the need, care for the needy, seek diligently to alleviate the need, and will persevere through.
Promise of Appreciation conveys a message that a potential receiver of human service will appreciate the service and will do his/her part as needed. Promise of appreciation motivates care and diligence.
Promise of Obedience is important when a person interacts with higher authority, such as proposing a choice to the authority or requesting service controlled by the authority. Through promise of obedience, a person conveys a message of willingness to submit and accept the decision of the authority, even if unfavorable. Promise of obedience motivates a promise of care and diligence from the authority.
As we discuss in a previous study under Value of Humility, humility promotes an environment conducive to fulfilling God’s purpose for every person to represent him in interactions with others. The interactions often occur as part of a network of mutual provider-receiver relationships, whereby every person is potentially a provider of service to benefit others and receiver of service provided by others. Humility conveys a promise to recognize and appreciate others as potential providers of human service and offer self to do likewise. Humility conveys a recognition that another person better than I can be found. As Paul said in his letter to Philippians 2:3, “…in humility value others above yourselves.” Therefore, humility conveys Godliness and motivates others to do likewise. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.
The enemy will like to disrupt any person from Following God’s Schedule by attacking their compassion, diligence, appreciation, or any aspect of human interaction essential to living in God’s purpose. Learn to recognize, assess, and resist the threat. Start with Christ teaching in the Parable of the Sower: that God offers opportunities for every person to grow and flourish in him but the enemy will attempt to disrupt the opportunities in several ways. Then continue with David encountering potential enemy disruption through physical threat to his life. He recognized the threat, tried containment initially, but later implemented an avoidance strategy to resist disruption by protecting himself from Saul.
The enemy will seek to disrupt a person from Following God’s Schedule at any stage of a mission. As we discuss in a previous study under Nature of Temptation, the devil wants to pull each person away from God’s purpose and will devise schemes to disrupt a person from living to receive fulfillment of God’s promise according to God’s schedule. For example, the devil can attack the compassion or diligence of the intended service provider in a call to compassion or the appreciation of the service recipient.
He can attack a person’s compassion to reduce their sensitivity to needs that God places on their path. As we discuss under Compassion—Sensitivity to Needs, God uses call to compassion to direct a person to blessing he has ordained and expects the person to recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to providing, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. The devil can attack a person’s compassion by interfering with or manipulating one or more aspects of their capability to recognize, care, commit, and persevere.
Similarly, the devil can attack a person’s diligence. As we discuss in a previous study under Diligence in Human Service—Stimulates Appreciation, a person called to provide service to alleviate a need will be successful if he/she is diligent: i.e., understands the need and needy, is driven by care (i.e., hunger and thirst for righteousness) to commit to providing for the need, and perseveres in seeking to alleviate the need. Therefore, the devil can seek to disrupt by interfering with or manipulating one or more aspects of the person’s capability to recognize, care, commit, and persevere.
Also, the devil can seek to disrupt by attacking a person’s appreciation. As we discuss previously under Season for Giving, Receiving, and Appreciation, God expects the recipient of human service to appreciate the service, appreciate the provider, and appreciate God for placing the provider in position to alleviate the need. Appreciation is important because it motivates the service recipient to “hunger and thirst” to do likewise for the benefit of others. Thus, the service recipient in a call to compassion is a nurturing heart where benefits of the service grow and multiply. The benefits grow if the recipient understands and appreciates the service. In contrast, the benefit dies if the recipient simply takes the service but does not understand or appreciate that something has been done to alleviate his/her need. The benefit of human service dies in a taker, i.e., a person that receives service without appreciation. Therefore, an attack targeted at a person’s appreciation could be an effective way to disrupt a person from living to receive fulfillment of God’s promise.
Diligence breeds success in human service, stimulates recipient’s appreciation, and motivates them to “hunger and taste” to do likewise toward others. Thus, diligence extends the benefits of human service through a long chain among God’s provider-receiver network: whereby every person could be his provider of service to others and receiver of service provided by others. Christ taught diligence through his disciples in feeding thousands in the wilderness. Several generations earlier, David’s diligence manifested in interactions with Saul and as officer and commander in Israel’s army. Diligence brought him success, admiration, and growing reputation as potential future leader of Israel.
Diligence in human service contributes to Following God’s Schedule because it determines a person’s success in completing a call to compassion. As we discuss previously under Compassion—Sensitivity to Needs, God directs a person to a need and expects them to recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to providing, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. A person called to provide service to alleviate a need will be successful if he/she understands the need and needy, is driven by care (i.e., hunger and thirst for righteousness) to commit to providing for the need, and perseveres in seeking to alleviate the need. That is, if the person is diligent.
Diligence means understanding what needs to be done and mobilizing resources to complete and deliver service to alleviate the need. Mobilizing resources could include consultation with others, identification of tasks, forming teams as needed, and assigning leadership to accomplish the tasks. For simpler tasks, mobilizing resources would simply mean getting up to do what is needed. For example, the Samaritan mobilized resources initially by providing first aid directly and transporting the needy to the next point of help. There he continued the mobilization by speaking to the inn keeper and promising additional assistance. Diligence manifests in recognizing the details and persevering through to accomplish the objective of delivering service to alleviate the need.
Successful delivery of service to alleviate a need calls for appreciation from the recipient. As we discuss previously under Season for Giving, Receiving, and Appreciation, God expects the recipient of human service to appreciate the service, appreciate the provider, and appreciate God for placing the provider in position to alleviate the need.
EXTENDING BENEFITS OF HUMAN SERVICE Appreciation is important because it motivates the recipient of human service to “hunger and thirst” to do likewise for the benefit of others. Thus, an act of goodness whereby a person provides service to alleviate another person’s need could benefit several more people because the recipient’s appreciation motivates him/her to be good to others that are, in turn, motivated to be good to yet others. Thus, appreciation unlocks the long-term benefit of human service that lies in the potential to motivate an expanding community of people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Therefore, diligence is important because of stimulating appreciation that could result in extending the benefits of human service through a long chain among God’s provider-receiver network.
We discuss Christ’s feeding of thousands in the wilderness to highlight diligence of the disciples laying the foundation for the miracle. Also, we discuss David’s diligence several generations earlier, which manifested in interactions with Saul and in David’s role as officer and commander in Israel’s army. Because of his diligence in human service, David was successful in everything he did and was highly admired among contemporaries. As a result, his reputation grew rapidly as potential future leader of Israel.
Having received God’s promise of a positive end to his persecution, Paul persevered through subsequent trials and presented his case diligently while showing respect for others, authority, and due process. His interactions during the period reinforce our understanding that faith of God’s intervention motivates human effort and should encourage us to have patience and work diligently while relating to others in accordance with our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation.
Our study series on Responding to Adversity continues with a discussion of Paul’s response to events in Jerusalem and Caesarea following Christ’s promise that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome. The events began with a conspiracy in Jerusalem against Paul’s life, his transfer to the governor’s custody in Caesarea, and subsequent trials before the governor. Paul persevered through the events with patience and showed respect for authority and due process through his interactions with Roman commander Claudius Lysias, Governor Felix, and Jewish representatives constituted to make a case against him in Caesarea. He responded to relentless persecution by defending himself diligently while respectful of other persons, authority, and due process (i.e., in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation).
Paul’s interactions in these events convey a special meaning because he had received a promise from God that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” [Acts 23:11]. His interactions following the promise show a motivation to do what he could to defend himself against his accusers, convince relevant authority that he did nothing wrong, and do these while showing respect for authority and due process. His actions provide a message that faith of God’s intervention motivates perseverance and diligence. That is, the promise of God’s intervention should make a person evaluate every situation to determine what needs to be done and apply best effort toward doing it, because God may often fulfill his promise through what we do.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, God provides input to solving our problems but expects us to apply human effort in order to be prepared and positioned to accept his input. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to seek solutions by doing what we can with faith of God intervening at his chosen time and in his chosen way.
Paul received God’s promise that his persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome, but did not know how or when he would go to Rome. However, he knew he had a promise from God and will get to its fulfillment by applying his human effort and relating to people with humility and respect.
Therefore, he persevered through the crisis, worked diligently through the trials, and did so while respectful of others in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation. Also, we have encountered similar response in adversity through previous bible studies such as under Living to Receive God’s Intervention and Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity. Each of the examples illustrate a person persevering through adversity by working diligently to resolve problems, relating to others in accordance with the principles of living in the image of God, and arriving at a glorious fulfillment of God’s promise.
We discuss the relentless persecution of Paul and his interactions with the authorities and his accusers during the period following his encounter with Christ while in detention in Jerusalem.
David’s father sent him on an errand to check on his senior brothers at the battlefield and report their conditions back to him. While on the errand, David encountered the challenge of Goliath and transitioned into a mission to kill Goliath, lead Israel to victory over Philistines, and establish himself as future leader of Israel. God called David to the mission by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Through the mission, David teaches all people: if you pledge to worship and serve God and live according to the pledge, then God will be your God and will lead you to victory over every enemy or weapon set against you.
We examine the events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath and draw an example to illustrate that God may send messages to a child through normal parent-child interactions. The study continues our series on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. We have identified three categories of such messaging based on previous sessions. In the first category, typified by the Call of Samuel, the message is clear to the parent and consists of information that the child should implement himself/herself with parental guidance. For example, Eli understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. The second category consists of a clear instruction to a parent to implement for his/her child. For example, in Instruction to Parent for Child, we discuss God’s revelation to Rebekah regarding relationships between Jacob and Esau. The third category consists of messages delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child recognizing at the time that the information is a message from God. For example, in Joseph Called to Mission, we discuss Jacob sending his son on what he believed was an ordinary errand that we now understand as God calling Joseph to a special mission to Egypt.
The current study discusses another example in the third messaging category. The example is based on events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath. We discuss an understanding that the events illustrate God prompting a parent to pass information to a child that becomes a pivotal input to the child’s development. David’s father, Jesse, sent him on an errand to check on his brothers in the battlefield and bring back information about their condition. The errand took David to his encounter with and triumph over Goliath, leading Israel to victory when they feared defeat, and establishing himself as a future leader of Israel.
We see remarkable similarities between the call of Joseph to the Egypt mission (Joseph Called to Mission) and the call of David to battle Goliath. In each case, a father sends a child on an errand to check on senior brothers and report back to the father, the child runs into an obstacle on the way but presses on toward completing the errand, and the child confronts a situation that transforms the errand into a long-term mission of much greater significance. The events appear designed to provide opportunities for us to learn about clarity of parental communication and the importance of a child listening to the parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information.
Also, based on David’s encounter with Goliath, we learn about applying human effort with faith of God intervening in his own way and time through what we do at the human level. David triumphed over Goliath using weapon that would have been inadequate by any human standard. We examine his actions to identify what he did that could have contributed to his effectiveness against a formidable enemy.
GODLINESS OPENS OPPORTUNITIES Ruth’s interactions with the community during her first season in Bethlehem highlight humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent effort at contributing what she could to alleviate the needs. The interactions opened opportunities for her to step into the life for which she is known today. As we discuss in a subsequent bible study, the events that happened during this time led to Ruth marrying Boaz, becoming the grandmother of David, therefore, a grandparent in the lineage of Christ. Ruth’s Godliness opened opportunities for fulfillment of a grand blessing in her life.
This installment of our study series on Ruth focuses on events that occurred during the first season after her arrival in Bethlehem. Her interactions with mother-in-law Naomi and with family relative Boaz highlight the value of humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, commitment to doing what she could to alleviate the needs, and persistent diligence at accomplishing her task.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem during barley harvest. Having been away for a long time, they likely faced economic hardship because they did not have any farm to harvest. Ruth recognized their hardship and determined to do what she could to alleviate the condition. With the approval of her mother-in-law, she decided to go gleaning (i.e., picking grains leftover from regular harvesting) in any farm that would accept her. She was accepted at the first farm she applied, which happened to belong to Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz did not only welcome her in his farm but also offered her protection and preferential gleaning access, because of her humility, politeness, positive work habbit (diligence and persistent effort), and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi.
God provides input to solving our various problems but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Furthermore, the human effort could be closely tied with and necessary to accepting and utilizing God’s input. Because the strategy and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to place ourselves in position to receive his intervention. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that he will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention.
Peter’s miraculous escape from Herod’s prison [Acts 12] helps illustrate this aspect of our relationship with God. King Herod started a new wave of persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. After he killed James, John’s brother, and noticed Jews appeared pleased with the killing, he arrested Peter, intending to kill him also. To avoid having to kill someone during the Feast of Unleavened bread, he held Peter in prison under maximum security, intending to try him publicly and kill him after the festival. Members of the church prayed ceaselessly for Peter. They gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, and prayed earnestly day and night for Peter. An angel appeared to Peter in prison on the night before his scheduled public trial. The angel freed him, guided him to about one street length out from the prison, and left him. Peter first visited with the church family at Mary’s house where they were praying for him. He told them how God brought him out of the prison. Then he left and went away so Herod and his men could not find him when they looked for him in the morning. We learn several lessons based on Peter’s experience.