“Be Humble in Walking with Your God”
“LOOK! how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Surely those words of David strike a responsive chord in the hearts of all those of the New World society, for it is indeed a joy to associate with Christian brothers that are at unity, “like a flock in the pen.” How different from the way things are in the old-world society! As, for example, when they get together at a United Nations assembly and there is such turmoil that the chairman breaks his gavel trying to restore order and a meeting has to be dismissed because of the strife and the confusion!—Ps. 133:1; Mic. 2:12.
Why is there unity in the New World society? Because of the love that Jesus said would distinguish his true followers. Such love makes for humility, without which unity is not possible. It is pride, the very opposite of humility, that from the beginning has caused friction and division, the opposite of unity.—John 13:34, 35.
Most fittingly, therefore, time and again God’s Word commands us to be humble: “Be humble in walking with your God.” “Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah.” “All of you gird yourselves with humility.” “Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.”—Mic. 6:8; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5, 6.
The need to be humble was repeatedly stressed by Jesus: Become like a little child; take a lowly seat at a banquet; when praying be like the lowly tax collector, not like the self-righteous Pharisee. Note also that a command to be humble served as the springboard for Jesus’ scathing denunciation of the proud and hypocritical religious leaders of his day. In striking contrast to their proud course was the humble course of Jesus, that of honoring God at all times: “I do nothing of my own initiative.” His very coming to earth as well as his entire earthly sojourn was a shining example of humility, as the apostle Paul so clearly shows at Philippians 2:5-8. Typical of Jesus’ humility was his willingness to wash the feet of his apostles.—Matt. 18:3, 4; Luke 14:7-11; 18:9-14; Matt. 23:12; John 8:28; 13:5.
What does it mean to be humble? The word “humble” comes from the root humus, meaning “earth” or “ground.” It has been defined as “thinking lowly of oneself; claiming little as one’s desert; not proud or assertive in spirit, manner or seeming; lowly.”—Webster.
Christian humility is sincere. It is not a weak submissiveness because of fear or for selfish advantage, but is based on right principles, one of which is justice. We owe it to God to be humble. Of all God’s intelligent creation we especially should be humble, for we occupy the lowliest position. And due to sin, is not humankind also the most unworthy? Why, compared to Jehovah God, the world’s most powerful “nations are as a drop from a bucket,” all the people “are as grasshoppers” and “all flesh is as vegetation.”—Isa. 40:15, 22; 1 Pet. 1:24.
We also owe it to our neighbor to be humble: “Who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” At the same time being humble helps us to avoid the snare of hypocrisy.—1 Cor. 4:7.
The principle of love also requires us to be humble, and here, too, being humble will, in turn, make us more loving. If we love our heavenly Father we would not do anything to detract from the glory due him, would we? So love for God will make us be humble in walking before him. And how may it be said that being humble increases our love for God? Because humility makes us conscious of our spiritual need and helps us to appreciate that we cannot direct our own steps, thereby drawing us to God.—Matt. 5:3; Jer. 10:23.
Likewise, love for our brothers will make us humble in relation to them; humility also aiding us to be more loving. “Have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind, doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” If we are humble we will not say to another, “I have no need of you,” but will appreciate our interdependency. If we are humble we will not feel offended should we seem to have been slighted. If we are humble we will be merciful with others even as God is merciful with us and we will keep on showing kindness and compassion. Humility is particularly becoming to all those that seek affection or love.—Phil. 2:2, 3; 1 Cor. 12:20, 21.
The same is also true of the principle of wisdom: it obligates us to be humble. Only by being humble can we have peace with God: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” He resides “with the one crushed and lowly in spirit.” Wisdom also dictates that we be humble so that we may be at peace with ourselves. He that is humble is not likely to be frustrated, or torn with selfish ambition, but wisely appreciates that godly devotion with self-sufficiency is great gain.—Jas. 4:6; Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 6:6.
Being humble is the course of wisdom also because, in addition to causing us to be at peace with God and ourselves, it also makes us be at peace with our fellow man, and in particular our fellow Christians. It makes for smooth working together, for unity, because he that is humble will not compete with his fellow Christian; he will not try to outshine him. The humble are wisely submissive and obedient, thereby making for peace in the New World society. So justice, love and wisdom all indicate that we be humble.
GUARDING AGAINST NOT BEING HUMBLE
It is not easy for man, conceived in sin and brought forth with error, to be humble. Selfishness causes each one to want to exalt himself as Satan did. Because of this the Word of God not only contains many commands for us to be humble but also warns us against being proud. In fact, time and again the two go together, admonition to be humble and warning against pride: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” “Before a crash the heart of a man is lofty, and before glory there is humility.” “The very haughtiness of earthling man will humble him, but he that is humble in spirit will take hold of glory.”—Jas. 4:6; Prov. 18:12; 29:23.
While all in the New World society must guard against not being humble, especially must those who exercise authority over others, such as parents, those in a congregation who are teaching others in the training program, the congregation’s ministerial assistants and, above all, the overseers, be they congregation, circuit, district, branch or zone servants.
All such have the obligation to be exemplary in being humble in their walking with God, even as they should be patterns in knowledge and zeal. Thus the apostle Peter counsels the older men: “Neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” Teaching others, they must exercise care lest Paul’s rebuke applies to them: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?”—1 Pet. 5:3; Rom. 2:21.
Another reason why overseers must be on guard is that they have so many brothers to deal with. Each contact furnishes an opportunity to be helpful or otherwise, this depending upon whether they are humble or not. Then, too, because of their position all they say and do is taken far more seriously than it would otherwise be.
Then, again, by reason of an overseer’s duties it is quite easy for him to seem too busy, or actually to be too energetic and efficient to be truly helpful toward those for whom he is responsible. This will cause him to lack fellow feeling, empathy. Thus he may fail to come down to the level of others and so be unable to say, as did the apostle Paul: “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak.”—1 Cor. 9:22.
Overseers must also bear in mind the warning: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Natural talent, acquired learning or appointment to office can easily cause one to lose out on humility. “He’s good, but he knows it,” should not be said of any overseer in the New World society. Unless he keeps humble and holding a right perspective he can very easily become “puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.”—1 Cor. 8:1; 1 Tim. 3:6.
WHEN ESPECIALLY TO BE ON GUARD
It appears that there are certain times when we must especially be on guard that we keep on being humble as we walk with our God. One of these times is when we are receiving a rebuke or correction. As the Congregator wisely counsels: “If the spirit of a ruler should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.” Thus when King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan and told of his sin, he did not rise up in rage against God’s spokesman, but humbly took the rebuke. His calmness, his humility, his repentance caused his great sin to be allayed in that it did not cost him his throne nor the Kingdom covenant.—Eccl. 10:4; 2 Sam. 12:1-14.
On the other hand, there was King Uzziah, the military genius. When presumptuously proceeding to offer incense, he refused to let the priests rebuke him, but in a proud rage pushed them aside and as a result was humbled by being smitten with leprosy, dying by a plague from Jehovah. When given counsel or reproof by God’s spokesmen, that is the time for us to be humble, heeding the counsel: “The discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject, and do not be disgusted with his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves.”—2 Chron. 26:16-21; Prov. 3:11, 12.
Another particularly sensitive occasion when we must be on guard to keep humble is when we are given a position of responsibility. We do not want to be like rejected King Saul, who started out humbly but then took himself too seriously, acting disobediently and presumptuously and so losing out on everything. As Samuel had to tell him: “Was it not on the condition that you were little in your own eyes that you were head of the tribes of Israel and Jehovah proceeded to anoint you as king over Israel? . . . Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! . . . rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and teraphim.” Only by continuing to remain little in our own eyes can we hope to continue to enjoy the added privileges that have come our way.—1 Sam. 15:17, 22, 23.
AIDS TO BEING HUMBLE
What aids has God provided to help us to ‘be humble in walking with our God’? Certainly, foremost among these is God’s Word, the Bible. Thus the king of Israel had to make his own copy of the Law and read in it all the days of his life, in order to fear Jehovah his God so as to keep all the words of this law and these regulations by doing them, that his heart might not exalt itself above his brothers.’—Deut. 17:18-20.
God’s holy spirit is one of love and power and soundness of mind. It therefore will also aid us to be humble, to avoid resentment when disciplined and to keep from becoming puffed up when honored with added privileges of service. Certainly the fear of Jehovah will help us to keep humble by making us ever aware of our relationship with Jehovah, our accountability to as well as our dependence upon him. And in particular will prayer be a help to our being humble. In prayer we beg of God mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, his holy spirit, strength, prosperity upon our efforts, and suchlike. Appreciating our unworthiness and our needs, our prayers to God will keep us from being proud.
So let all take to heart the counsel to “be humble in walking with your God.” It will mean many blessings both now and in the new world, for “the result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Prov. 22:4.