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.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ’s teaching on humility through three interactions: first, an interaction with his disciples, when he presented a child as an exemplification of humility and declared that “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:4, NKJV]; second, an interaction with fellow guests at a dinner, where he explained that people should refrain from assigning themselves to seats of honor, to avoid potential demotion by the host, for “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” [Luke 14:11, NKJV]; and third, an interaction with his disciples and a large audience during the Sermon on the Mount.
Humility conveys a message that a person is available and willing to provide or accept assistance as needed. It sets up an environment for fulfilling God’s purpose of mutual provider-receiver relationships among people, whereby every person is potentially a provider sometimes and receiver at other times. Humility conveys a person as predisposed to appreciate other people as potential providers of human service and willing to perform services to benefit others. Therefore, a person’s humility conveys Godliness to others and motivates them to do the same. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.