Humility—an Aid to Patience
A BIBLE scholar known world wide had spent the early morning hours, together with some traveling companions, viewing the ruins of Jericho. After returning to their hotel they were served a late breakfast, the waiter placing the food at the foot of the table. By the time the platters reached the head of the table they were empty. The scholar waited patiently, unperturbed, until the waiter finally brought more food. What enabled this man to wait so patiently when it really would have been fitting for him to have been served first? His humility.
To be patient, as this man was, means to be slow to anger, to be long-suffering, to keep calm, not to lose one’s temper because of trying circumstances. Patience makes for peace and harmony. An Arab proverb expresses it: “Patience is the key of joy; but haste is the key to sorrow.” Because we are all imperfect, wives need to be patient with their husbands, husbands with their wives, parents with their children, teachers with their students, overseers with those in their charge.
Today impatience is a common fault, for everybody seems to be in a hurry. Besides, there is so much pride and ambition, which cause many to be impatient with those who seem to slow them down in their race to get to the top. Such persons would do well to consider the Russian proverb: “The future belongs to him who knows how to wait.”
Wisely God’s Word counsels us to be patient, to be long-suffering: “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, . . . make your hearts firm.” “Love is patient,” we are told. Why? Because love is “never boastful, nor conceited.” Also, we read that “the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience.”—Jas. 5:7, 8; 1 Cor. 13:4, New English Bible; Gal. 5:22, NE.
A great aid to patience is humility. This is apparent from the inspired words of King Solomon: “Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit.” (Eccl. 7:8) In other words, he who is haughty is not patient; and this being so, it follows that humility is essential to patience.
God’s Word tells us that the haughty or proud person does not think soundly. (Rom. 12:3) He has little patience in dealing with others. His mental attitude is: “Why should I have to wait for others?” “Why should I have to put up with the irritations and annoyances caused by other people’s stupidity and selfishness.” “Who do they think that I am?” Far from being slow to anger and patient, the proud man is quick to express displeasure.
In contrast to this, humility aids us to be patient because it makes us willing to be of service to others. If we are humble we will not take ourselves too seriously, we will not expect too much of others, nor will we expect special treatment or special consideration. We will appreciate that we all make mistakes, that we all differ as to abilities and that we often try the patience of others; so we will be tolerant.
The Bible tells us that Jehovah God has shown patience over the centuries, yes, for millenniums. He has truly been patient with the human race, even as illustrated by his dealings with the nation of Israel: “Jehovah . . . kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again,” until, in righteous indignation, he had to act. Patient? Yes, he waited patiently for centuries before he punished that nation for their wicked unfaithfulness by letting them be taken into Babylonian captivity.—2 Chron. 36:15, 16.
Jehovah God is also slow to anger, or patient, with this present wicked generation. He has long had sufficient grounds to destroy this corrupt old world. But some people consider him slow in fulfilling his promises to end wickedness. Yet, he is not slow; he simply “is patient . . . because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) Since humility and patience go together, can it be said that the Most High, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, is humble? Yes, it can, even as his Word tells us: “Who is like Jehovah our God, him who is making his dwelling on high? He is condescending to look on heaven and earth, raising up the lowly one from the very dust.” And as the psalmist David testified: “You will give me your shield of salvation, . . . and your own humility will make me great.”—Ps. 113:5-7; 18:35.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, beautifully illustrated this principle, that humility and patience go together, in his dealings with his apostles. They no doubt tried his patience time and again by their spiritual immaturity, by their petty rivalries, by their slowness to comprehend. But did Jesus ever lose his temper in dealing with them? Rather, he patiently illustrated the lessons he wanted them to learn. (Luke 9:46-48) And was he humble? He most assuredly was, even as he showed by washing the feet of his apostles. In fact, Zechariah’s prophecy foretold that he would be humble.—Zech. 9:9; John 13:4-15.
The Bible also tells us of the patience of God’s faithful servants of old. Concerning them, we read: “Take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” as “a pattern of patience under ill-treatment.” And all of them were humble men, otherwise Jehovah God could not have used them, for “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—Jas. 5:10, NE; 1 Pet. 5:5.
So work at being humble. Really, no one should think more highly of himself than it is necessary to think. (Rom. 12:3) We all make mistakes, use poor judgment, sin. (1 Ki. 8:46) We may excel in some fields; others excel in other respects. The course of wisdom is to heed the counsel: “Doing nothing out of . . . egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” If we have that humble mental attitude we will have little difficulty in being patient with others.—Phil. 2:3.