People are often known primarily for what they have done. In fact, we tend to define who people are by what they have accomplished in life. Someone may be described as a pro football player, a scratch golfer, the CEO of a large company, a doctor, a pastor, a teacher, a dental hygienist (you can fill in your own description). These labels tell us some things about a person: how much education they have, what their interests are, their level of dedication, their skills, etc. Most people enjoy being known for their accomplishments. The issue with this way of identifying each other is that it only gives us a surface view of who someone is. A person is so much more than what they have accomplished or the positions they have held.

When is the last time you heard someone described as being humble? What comes to mind if someone is described as humble? Maybe your first thought is that the person is “limited,” that is, a person of “humble means.” Or perhaps you are thinking that the person really hasn’t accomplished much, so humble is a good way to describe them.

The Bible mentions the word humility or being humble many times and always in the context of this being a good thing. In fact, humility is a trait that God wants for us. Why would God want us to be humble? One answer is that humility changes the way we see ourselves and others. Humility is a recognition of who I am in relation to God and to other people. I am someone no more deserving of God’s mercy and grace than anyone else—which is to say that I don’t deserve it at all.

But I am not saying that being humble means that I am nothing, or that I don’t matter, or that I am somehow inferior to other people. You and I were created in the image of God, and although we have been corrupted by sin, God attributes infinite worth to us. The proof of this is that God sent his own Son, Jesus, to live, suffer, and die for us. We are valuable to him. So why is humility so highly valued by God? Here is the perfect picture of humility (Philippians 2:3-11, ESV):

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Our very salvation depended on Jesus humbling himself and becoming obedient to death on the cross. And our salvation depends on us recognizing our completely lost state (being humbled) so that we are willing to receive his mercy and grace and be brought to life in Christ. In a recent sermon, my pastor said, regarding a person who had passed into glory, that he was someone who had allowed others and God to minister to him. Could this be the most important thing that could ever be said about any of us? And as we humble ourselves, we recognize the value that God places on all people.

Will you in humility remember others, pray for their salvation, and give—so that many more may hear the Good News?

Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.

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