The Price of Humility:
No matter the occasion where humility occurs in a person’s life, it will always come with some sort of price tag. For Jesus, the ultimate price was as high as it comes (see Philippians 2:8). For us, there is a price tag too - always. However, this is not to be considered a bad thing, or something to be avoided. We can learn from the example of people in scripture, and of course what scripture has to say about the subject directly. Let’s consider for a moment, and as an example in scripture, the humility of David.
In spite of his faults, flaws and failures, God called David “a man after his own heart” (see Acts 13:22). One of the qualities that made David great was his willingness to acknowledge his mistakes and failures. This is a true sign of humility, and is often itself a price tag. Consider the response of David when he received the news that 85 priests, their entire families, and the residents of the entire city they dwelt in had been slaughtered. David said; “I have caused the death of all the persons…” (see I Samuel 22:22). Although this was not due to his failure directly, David still took full responsibility. He was devastated at the news, but not defensive! Can you imagine taking responsibility for such an enormous tragedy? Can you imagine the humility he must have demonstrated? In the familiar account of David’s failure with Bathsheba where he was guilty of infidelity, deception, and murder; when confronted by Nathan the prophet he openly admitted without defense; “I have sinned against the Lord” (see II Samuel 12:13).
Would we have the emotional and spiritual maturity to admit such things? Or, would, we try to defend or justify our actions for fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected altogether? Further, would we tend to counter-accuse or even blame those who bring such news? Might we become hostile, even sarcastic? Making mistakes does not make us lesser people, but defending those mistakes does! Pride, which God certainly hates (see Proverbs 8:13) will rob us every time of the wisdom that will eventually and surely come through humility. This wisdom and understanding is, in fact, part of the purpose of humility.
The Purpose of Humility:
Proverbs 15:32-33 (NIV) Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD, and humility comes before honor.
From this passage alone, and specifically in relationship to God, we recognize that there are actually several purposes for humility. Along with wisdom and understanding, the fear of the Lord simply is not possible apart from humility. The proud person will never experience the fear of the Lord, the proper awe of God. Despite the ways of the world and its thinking of which we are to not love, the fear of the Lord is not an option for the Christian, and for that matter, neither is humility. We’ll discover in other passages of scripture that humility indeed is part of God’s ongoing design for everyone believer.
Understanding that God’s ultimate and premier purpose is that we as believers all be conformed to the image (likeness) of Jesus Christ, it would stand to reason that humility must therefore have a direct relationship to this higher purpose. Being conformed, formed, and transformed as processes all have to do with being changed, shaped, even molded. Humility puts us in the proper attitude and mindset where being conformed to Christ’s image can even begin to happen. In essence, we have to be willing to let God shape us, and realize that He is constantly in the process of doing so. This is a humility that we thrust ourselves into, not a humiliation with which we fear to fall upon us.
Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NKJV) This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
In an indirect way, we see in Proverbs 15:33 that honor is also in store for those who demonstrate humility. The human tendency is to want honor; perhaps even seek it. History records countless attempts of those who sought honor with complete disregard for humility. We find here that honor from the biblical perspective takes a certain and designed course. Along this journey, we must pass through the “desert of humility” as a prerequisite to seeing “the pasture of honor”.
In consideration of the substance of clay, notice that it has no aspirations of its own. It’s simply pliable, moldable, and completely subject to the potter’s will. Christian author Henry Blackaby once said: “When God’s assignment demands humility, He finds a servant willing to be humbled. God uses holy vessels, so He finds those who will allow him to remove their impurities. It’s not a noble task being clay – there’s no glamour in it, nothing boast-worthy, except it’s exactly what God is looking for.”
It’s exactly what God is looking for? Yes. How do we know this? Does scripture speak of it? Yes.
The Place of Humility:
We have just seen that a humble person is willing, in essence, to put themselves in God’s hands. The Bible tells us, and experience does also, that God is Spirit. Why then does scripture refer to God’s hands in so many instances? Because God is merciful, loving, gracious and generous, He gives us figurative language to help us better understand what is being referred to. From a human perspective, hands are so important and signify a wide variety of things. In scripture, the hand of God is used to speak of His provision, guidance, might, righteousness, salvation and protection. In a figurative sense, the hand of God is also a place. Note what we as believers are charged with in reference to humility:
I Peter 5:5b-7 (NKJV) Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Under the mighty hand of God is the place where I clothe myself with humility. Indeed, the only place!
When I physically dress in the morning or otherwise, I always find a place to do so that is fitting for that purpose. The same is true for humility. The “dressing room” for clothing ourselves with humility is under the mighty hand of God. Note that this is also the place, the position, from which I cast my cares on Him. From my own experience, I have found that we really need to do this “casting” from this humble place. Unless we position ourselves (figuratively, but purposefully) under the mighty hand of God, I surmise that casting our cares on Him is something we are unlikely to do? Our carnal tendency is to carry most of the cares ourselves, and to let our subtle pride have its way.
Pride cannot have its way in us! If it does have its way, God cannot have His way in us. It is that simple. Consider the person who was used to pen this scripture – Peter! Had Peter held on to his pride, he would never have been restored to Christ Jesus. He had failed. He had disowned Christ. Yet in the end, he had already done what he is here admonishing the church (us) to do. For him, his humility led to restoration and the awesome privilege of taking the gospel into the world as a vessel of honor.
May I suggest that this humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God is something we should be intentional about in our life and walk in the Spirit? May I suggest also that the clay in the hand of God can and should first humble itself under the hand of God? After all, it was pliable, moldable, and without self-aspiration under the hand of God before it was in the hand of God. This is representative of the completely willing vessel. This is the vessel that is willing to be marred, broken, over and over again – as long as it is in God’s hand. God is sovereign, and He has historically even used unwilling vessels to accomplish His purposes. However, would we not rather be willing vessels, trusting that his ways and purposes are perfect indeed. It is a tremendous honor to be His vessel. It is also humbling.
It is promised (again) that honor (an exaltation in due time) is in store for those who humble themselves in this fashion. Let me encourage you today (now) to intentionally humble yourself under God’s mighty hand. Do it again tomorrow. Do it as a lifestyle. Purpose in your heart to put “humble clothes” on every day. As a part of your early daily routine, let our heavenly Father know somehow that you are doing so, even if it is just a simple expression from your heart to Him. Then, live from this place. Do everything and say everything from the place of humility.
If this is the first time that you have, so to speak, come to this place of humility, then come to stay for the rest of your life! If you are doing so, then you are humbling yourself under God’s mighty hand of salvation. Now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).
Oh, blessed day!
Isaiah 64:8 (NKJV) But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.
Other scriptures for further study: (Acts 20:18-20; Colossians 3:12; Titus 3:1-2)