To have a higher opinion of oneself than of others is a deadly poison.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited.
Selfishness is indeed a deadly poison, one that will eat away at every relationship we let it invade. I’ve realized this in my own life – that one of my biggest personal struggles is simply letting myself get in the way.
It’s counterintuitive, but the benefits are real.
Humility is Physical
Humility isn’t just a virtue that remains inside us. It is physical.
Taking the lowest place.
Going to the back of the line.
Sitting in the worst seat at the table.
Helping yourself last.
There is nothing glamorous about being a believer. It is making yourself the least important in the relationship.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe in boundaries. (This book is wonderful if you struggle with saying no to things.)
This doesn’t mean you should do things that are physically unhealthy for the sake of humility.
We definitely shouldn’t put up with physical or psychological abuse of any kind.
We can’t run life on an empty tank. We must be well-nourished and healthy before we can go about nourishing others.
What this simply means is that humility is more than a feeling.
It’s an action.
You live it out by literally letting others take the spots ahead of you.
Even in line at the grocery store.
Even in traffic.
The strange thing is that it’s freeing.
You’re released from the constant pressure to “get ahead” “get what you deserve” and “put me first.”
Putting others first is like a breath of fresh air.
Humility is being okay being in last place.
When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
Humility is Sharing
And not just sharing out of our leftovers, but sharing out of our portion.
We’re never going to feel like we have enough excess to share.
But that’s no excuse.
There will always be more to get.
There will always be people who have more than you, but it does no good to compare yourself and say “why aren’t they sharing?”
The attitude of the heart matters.
We are to share in a way that isn’t begrudging or with ulterior motives.
Many sins – bitterness, jealousy, anger, selfishness – are rooted in our lack of humility.
They get in the way of generosity with our resources, our time, and our love.
What would it look like to give more in our relationships, expecting nothing in return?
What would it look like to share our resources unselfishly, not complaining under our breath and wishing for the favor to be returned?
I don’t believe it’s healthy to enable people by doing things they can do for themselves. It can lead to a cycle of perpetual dependence that harms everyone involved. (When Helping Hurts talks about this in greater detail.)
But let me tell you, many of our relationships veer too far the other direction.
Many of us are overly cautious and afraid of being used.
If we weren’t so afraid of being hurt and humiliated – if we truly opened up and were vulnerable with each other, sharing not just our money but our time, our talents, and our lives – many of our relationships would be vividly transformed.
Humility is Disappearing
People don’t see you when you’re humble.
You can’t do it for show.
If you’re doing something good or humanitarian for the admiration of your peers, you’re missing the point.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
God sees our hearts.
He knows when even our “selfless” acts are self-seeking in one way or another.
The only way to be completely sure that we aren’t serving out of selfishness is to disappear and do it in secret.
Our reward isn’t other people “oohing” and “aaahing” at how generous we are.
The reward is the beauty of being a part of building his kingdom.
Humility is doing the dirty work and the behind-the-scenes work that no one else wants to do.
Washing those dishes.
Folding those diapers.
Scrubbing those toilets.
We’re not always called to be on the front lines.
It can be hard to accept – I still struggle with feeling unfilled as a mother, whose main job is to provide the invisible foundation for my children to build off of.
But even though the foundation of a building isn’t seen, it’s an integral part of the design.
No Broadway show could go on without the backstage crew supporting the cast.
The world-changers of tomorrow need their diapers changed today.
Every role in the kingdom is vital, even the invisible ones.
Humility is the Path to the Gospel
Humility isn’t secondary to the gospel.
It is the footpath of the holy Christian pilgrimage.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The low place is where God himself dwells.
Jesus very intentionally came to earth under the most humble of circumstances.
He was born in a stable – which was sketchy and gross even in those times!
He rode a donkey into Jerusalem – and it was a borrowed donkey at that!
He had no home or place to lay his head.
He was a sojourner and an outcast before he was exalted by God.
None of this was an accident.
His kingdom is not of this world, and God doesn’t look at the things man looks at. (1 Sam. 16:7)
No one else in all of history was more worthy of acclimation yet chose the path of humility instead.
Jesus came to give us a glimpse into his kingdom, where the least is the greatest. (Matthew 23:11)
And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Humility is Dying to Myself
Most relationships are viewed as a transaction.
“Commodity Relationships” are exchanges where I give a certain amount and I receive a certain amount.
If I ever feel like I’m getting ripped off, I can leave the relationship.
“Covenant Relationships” go much deeper than that.
Most people have a covenant relationship with their children.
They give and give, especially in the beginning, and gain very little in return.
But they stick with it wouldn’t imagine walking out on the relationship.
In the end, the sacrifice is rewarded.
Why don’t we see more covenant relationships in our culture today?
Marriages and communities could be transformed if we started to look at them as a covenant and laid down our own agendas.
It’s time to set a new standard for loving one another.
The amazing thing about dying to myself is how indirectly rewarding it is.
It makes no logical sense and I have no idea how it works, but I know it’s what Jesus called us to.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
When I lose myself, I find I’m truly living.
How much of my depression is rooted in my own selfishness?
If my focus was to serve rather than feel fulfilled, how would my daily life change?
I’ve found that the best days are the ones that I’m serving someone else.
Maybe it’s feeding someone a meal.
Maybe it’s watching their kids.
Maybe it’s just sitting and listening while they pour out their heart.
It’s good for my soul as well as theirs.
My goal now is to be so preoccupied with giving and serving that my own needs are secondary.
That doesn’t mean they go unmet, but God somehow meets them through obedience.
What about you? What does it mean to walk humbly in your own life and give out of your portion?