Humility—A Most Desirable Quality
PRIDE—rather than humility, meekness or lowliness—is all too often the dominant trait reflected by imperfect humans. The Supreme Sovereign of the universe, however, is humble. This is evident from Jehovah God’s willingness to deal compassionately with lowly sinners who earnestly seek his approval and blessing.
Jehovah’s humility is beautifully portrayed in the third chapter of the book of Lamentations. There the prophet Jeremiah pours out his intense feelings about the terrible afflictions that befell the Israelites at the hands of the Babylonians. As a nation, the Israelites were laid low in utter defeat. Eventually, however, Jehovah God would remember repentant ones of the nation. Confidence in this is expressed in Jeremiah’s prayerful words at Lamentations 3:19, 20: “Remember my affliction and my homeless state, the wormwood and the poisonous plant. Without fail your soul will remember and bow low over me.” Yes, in expression of his superlative humility, the Almighty God would “bow low” or stoop down to give the repentant ones favorable attention and lift them up from their debased condition.
Thus, Jehovah God, though supreme and answerable to no one, condescends to look favorably even upon those who have been brought to the lowest state. Rightly, then, he requires that his servants be humble. Only to the humble ones does he give favorable attention, making them the object of his special consideration. His Word tells us: “Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.” (Ps. 138:6; Jas. 4:6) Great distance separates the proud from Jehovah God who dwells in the highest heavens. Nevertheless, he discerns their motivations and, hence, refuses to acknowledge them as his servants. In effect, they are not even passing acquaintances.
However, if we desire Jehovah’s recognition, we do well to consider the example of his humble servants in ancient times. One of these was David. Though anointed as king, he did not seek to get the position by force but willingly endured humiliations and persecutions at the hands of King Saul. At heart David did not have a conceited opinion of himself. He did not look with envy upon those in superior positions nor did he look with disdain upon the lowly and afflicted. He recognized his limitations and did not reach out for things beyond his capacities. That is why he could say: “O Jehovah, my heart has not been haughty, nor have my eyes been lofty; nor have I walked in things too great, nor in things too wonderful for me.”—Ps. 131:1.
Cultivating this humility required effort on David’s part, for he acknowledged under inspiration: “Surely I have soothed and quieted my soul like a weanling upon his mother. My soul is like a weanling upon me.” (Ps. 131:2) Evidently, therefore, at one time David’s soul, that is, the soulful desire that filled him, needed to be calmed so that he might reflect true humility. His desires and yearnings put him in a turmoil like that of a babe that longs for the breast of its mother. Once weaned, however, the child does not take long to get used to a new way of feeding and finds contentment in its mother’s arms. Similarly, David succeeded in calming his desires. Appreciating that exaltation comes from Jehovah, he patiently waited on him and could therefore encourage fellow Israelites to do the same: “Let Israel wait for Jehovah from now on and to time indefinite.”—Ps. 131:3.
Similar humility today will make a man patient about his being used as a ministerial servant or as an elder in a congregation of God’s people. He will not try to push himself forward with a view to gaining prominence but will gladly exert himself in doing ‘good toward all, especially toward those related to him in the faith.’ (Gal. 6:10) Though his good qualities and works may be overlooked for a time, he can rest assured that they will not remain concealed. As 1 Timothy 5:25 states: “Good deeds are obvious, or even if they are not, they cannot be concealed forever.”—New English Bible.
HUMILITY LEADS TO PEACE
By keeping a humble attitude and not making a big issue about not being used in a certain capacity, a man contributes to the preservation of peace among his Christian brothers. Even if an error in judgment were made involving you, it is not always wise to expose it and try to vindicate yourself. While a person might be able to prove that he is right, he could in the process injure others. In fact, he could undermine a congregation’s respect for its appointed elders. This would certainly make it very difficult for him to work with the elders whom he humiliated in the eyes of others.
So if a brother feels that an error in judgment has been made, he might ask himself: Was the error serious enough to be exposed despite possible adverse effects? Or, can it not, rather, wait for later correction? Would making an issue of it needlessly give rise to trouble that could disturb the peace of the congregation?
The humble person appreciates that he, too, makes mistakes and is therefore willing to accept and apply Scriptural counsel. If he has been misjudged, he can strive to profit from the experience, working hard not to make similar errors himself in dealing with others.
SERVING WITH HUMILITY
As for appointed elders and ministerial servants, they do well to imitate the apostle Paul’s example in humbly serving others. Of himself and his fellow workers, Paul wrote: “Neither have we been seeking glory from men, no, either from you or from others, though we could be an expensive burden as apostles of Christ. To the contrary, we became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” (1 Thess. 2:6-8) Such humility in being willing to serve without any desire for “glory” and such giving of one’s time and energies, in expression of self-sacrificing love, appeal to the hearts of others and make one a fine instrument in the hands of Jehovah, to the blessing of fellowmen.
Besides aiding us to reflect the spirit of one ministering to others, humility also enhances appreciation for fellow believers. The apostle Paul counseled the Philippians to ‘do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that others are superior to you.’ (Phil. 2:3) The person who follows this counsel is able to see fine qualities in others, qualities that may in certain respects be superior to his own. His modest evaluation of himself prevents him from being hasty about insisting on his way or trying to override the recommendations of others. He appreciates that there may be several ways to handle a matter and his judgment may not necessarily be the best. Therefore, he is willing to take into consideration the feelings and views of others. He exercises care not to take sole credit for doing something in which others have shared. His humility makes him a desirable associate.
Humility is indeed vital in preserving a good relationship with God and fellowmen. It is therefore a quality that all of us as devoted servants of Jehovah will want to cultivate to a greater degree.