Examples of Humility to Imitate
“Your own humility will make me great.”—PSALM 18:35.
1. What evidence of humility could be seen in a former president of the Watch Tower Society?
JOSEPH F. RUTHERFORD had a commanding presence, being more than six feet [180 cm] tall and weighing well over 200 pounds [90 kg]. He also had a powerful voice, which he used not only to make known the name of Jehovah as it had never been made known before but also to expose the duplicity of the religious leaders of Christendom, terming their religion “a snare and a racket.” But as powerful as his speeches were, when he prayed with the headquarters Bethel family, he sounded just like a small boy talking to his daddy, thus giving evidence of both his intimate relationship with his Maker and his humility. Yes, he was as humble as a little child.—Matthew 18:3, 4.
2. In what particular respect do Jehovah’s servants stand in striking contrast with individuals in the world?
2 Undoubtedly, all true servants of Jehovah God are humble. In this regard they stand in striking contrast with people of the world. Today, more than ever before, it is filled with proud individuals. The high and the mighty, the rich and the learned, and even many of the poor and those disadvantaged in other ways are proud.
3. What can be said about the fruits of pride?
3 Pride causes no end of strife and misery. Indeed, all the woe in the universe got started because a certain angel became proud, wanting to be worshiped the way that was uniquely due the Creator, Jehovah God. (Matthew 4:9, 10) Moreover, that one, who made himself the Devil and Satan, succeeded in seducing the first woman, Eve, by appealing to her pride. He promised her that if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she could be like God himself, knowing both good and bad. Had she been humble, she would have said, ‘Why should I want to be like God?’ (Genesis 3:4, 5) When we consider the wretched state that mankind is in, physically, mentally, and morally, how inexcusable is pride on the part of humans! No wonder we read that Jehovah hates “self-exaltation and pride”! (Proverbs 8:13) In striking contrast with all proud ones are the examples of humility that are found in God’s Word, the Bible.
Jehovah God Is Humble
4. What scriptures show that Jehovah is humble?
4 Jehovah God—the Most High, the Universal Sovereign, the King of eternity—is humble. (Genesis 14:22) Could that possibly be so? Yes, indeed! King David said, as recorded at Psalm 18:35: “You will give me your shield of salvation, and your own right hand will sustain me, and your own humility will make me great.” Clearly, King David credited Jehovah’s humility with making him, David, great. Then again, we read at Psalm 113:6 that Jehovah “is condescending to look on heaven and earth.” Other translations read, “stoops down to look,” (New International Version) “deigns to look down so low.”—The New English Bible.
5. What incidents testify to Jehovah’s humility?
5 Jehovah God certainly condescended in the way he dealt with Abraham, allowing Abraham to question His righteousness in purposing to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.* (Genesis 18:23-32) And when Jehovah expressed his inclination to wipe out the nation of Israel—one time for idolatry, another time for rebellion—Moses on each occasion reasoned with Jehovah as if he were talking to another human. Each time Jehovah responded favorably. It showed humility for Him to grant Moses’ pleas regarding His people Israel. (Exodus 32:9-14; Numbers 14:11-20) Other examples of Jehovah’s humbly dealing with humans on a person-to-person basis, as it were, are to be seen in his relations with Gideon and Jonah, as recorded at Judges 6:36-40 and Jonah 4:9-11.
6. What characteristic of Jehovah further reveals his humility?
6 In fact, at least nine times, Jehovah is said to be “slow to anger.”* Jehovah’s being long-suffering, slow to anger, in dealing with imperfect human creatures down through the millenniums is further proof of his being humble. Proud persons are impatient, quick to express rage, far different from long-suffering. How Jehovah’s humility makes the pride of imperfect humans look absurd! Since we are told to ‘be imitators of God as beloved children,’ we must be humble even as he is humble.—Ephesians 5:1.
Christ’s Example of Humility
7, 8. What do the Scriptures say about the humility of Jesus Christ?
7 The second most striking example of humility for us to imitate is mentioned at 1 Peter 2:21: “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” Long before he came to earth as a man, it was prophesied concerning him at Zechariah 9:9: “Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem. Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass.” Had Jesus Christ been proud, he might well have accepted the Devil’s offer of all the kingdoms in the world in exchange for one act of worship. (Matthew 4:9, 10) He also showed his humility by ascribing to Jehovah all credit for his teaching, saying: “When once you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.”—John 8:28.
8 Well could he say to his listeners: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) And what a fine example of humility he set by washing the feet of his apostles on the last evening that he was with them as a man! (John 13:3-15) Most fittingly, at Philippians 2:3-8, the apostle Paul counsels Christians to have “lowliness of mind,” citing Jesus Christ as an example: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” When faced with the greatest crisis of his life, he humbly prayed to his Father: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Without the shadow of a doubt, for us to be imitators of Jesus Christ, following closely in his footsteps, we must be humble.
The Apostle Paul, a Fine Example of Humility
9-12. In what ways did the apostle Paul set a fine example of humility?
9 The apostle Paul wrote: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Did the apostle Paul imitate Jesus Christ by being lowly in mind, thereby giving us another example of humility to imitate? Most assuredly he did. To begin with, he humbly acknowledged that he was a slave of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1) He told the elders of Ephesus about his ‘slaving for the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials that befell him by the plots of the Jews.’ (Acts 20:17-19) Had he not been humble, he would never have written the words found at Romans 7:18, 19: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good . . . For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.”
10 Also indicative of Paul’s humility is what he wrote to the Christians at Corinth, as recorded at 1 Corinthians 2:3: “I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling.” Humbly referring to his past course before becoming a Christian, he wrote: “Formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. . . . Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost.”—1 Timothy 1:13, 15.
11 Further showing his humility is his ascribing to Jehovah God all success in his efforts. He wrote concerning his ministry: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7) He also asked his brothers to pray for him that he might give a good witness, as we read at Ephesians 6:18-20: “Carry on prayer . . . for me, that ability to speak may be given me . . . that I may speak in connection with [the sacred secret of the good news] with boldness as I ought to speak.”
12 Paul also showed his humility in the way he cooperated with the other apostles: “James and Cephas and John . . . gave me and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations, but they to those who are circumcised.” (Galatians 2:9) He further showed his willingness to cooperate with the elders of the Jerusalem congregation by accompanying four young men to the temple and paying their expenses as they fulfilled a vow.—Acts 21:23-26.
13. What made Paul’s humility so remarkable?
13 Paul’s humility is all the more remarkable when we note how mightily he was used by Jehovah God. For example, we read that “God kept performing extraordinary works of power through the hands of Paul.” (Acts 19:11, 12) More than that, he was given supernatural visions and revelations. (2 Corinthians 12:1-7) We should also not overlook his being inspired to write 14 of the 27 books (actually letters) of the Christian Greek Scriptures. All of that did not go to his head, so to speak. He kept humble.
14-16. (a) How was the first president of the Watch Tower Society a fine example of humility? (b) His example stands in striking contrast with that of whom?
14 At Hebrews 13:7, we read the apostle Paul’s counsel: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” In keeping with this principle, we can take as a modern-day example the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Charles Taze Russell, whose faith we may imitate. Was he a humble man? Indeed he was! As has been well observed, in the text of his Studies in the Scriptures, six volumes of some 3,000 pages, not once did he make a reference to himself. The publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society today follow this principle in not drawing attention to men by identifying the writers of the articles.
15 In the Watch Tower, Russell once wrote that he knew of no such thing as “Russellism” and “Russellite,” terms that his opposers used but that he categorically rejected. He wrote: “Our work . . . has been to bring together long scattered fragments of truth and present them to the Lord’s people—not as new, not as our own, but as the Lord’s. . . . The work in which the Lord has been pleased to use our humble talent has been less a work of origination than a work of reconstruction, adjustment, harmonization.” Truly, he voiced the sentiments of the apostle Paul, as found at 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.
16 His attitude was entirely opposite that of Charles Darwin. In his first edition of The Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin repeatedly referred to “my” theory, ignoring what others before him had said about evolution. A noted writer of that century, Samuel Butler, lambasted Darwin, pointing out that many others had previously advanced the evolution hypothesis; by no means was it original with Darwin.
17. What are further examples of Brother Rutherford’s humility?
17 Another faithful servant in modern times whom Jehovah God used mightily was Joseph F. Rutherford, mentioned at the outset. He was a bold advocate of Bible truth and in particular of the name of Jehovah. Though widely known as Judge Rutherford, he was at heart a humble man. For example, he once made some dogmatic statements as to what Christians could expect in 1925. When events failed to support his expectations, he humbly told the Brooklyn Bethel family that he had made a fool of himself. An anointed Christian who had quite close association with him testified that time and again he heard Brother Rutherford apologize in the spirit of Matthew 5:23, 24, both in public and in private, for having hurt a fellow Christian by some ill-advised expression. It takes humility for one in a position of authority to apologize to those who are in subjection to him. Brother Rutherford set a fine example for all overseers, whether in a congregation, in the traveling work, or in one of the Society’s branches.
18. What expression revealing a humble state of mind did the third president of the Society make?
18 The third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Nathan H. Knorr, also showed that, prominent as he was among Jehovah’s people, he did not feel exalted because of his position. Although he excelled in organizing ability and in public speaking, he had great respect for what others did. Thus, he once visited a member of the Writing Department in his office and stated: “Here is where the most important as well as the most difficult work takes place. That’s why I do so little of it.” Yes, he was humbly applying the counsel at Philippians 2:3, that ‘with lowliness of mind a person should consider that others are superior to him.’ He appreciated that although serving as the president of the Society was important, other tasks were also important. It took humility on his part to feel that way and to express it in so many words. He was another fine example for all to imitate, especially those who may have a prominent position of oversight.
19, 20. (a) What example of humility did the fourth president of the Society set? (b) What help will the next article give as to our exercising humility?
19 The fourth president of the Society, Fred W. Franz, was also a fine example of humility. As vice president of the Society for some 32 years, he did much of the writing for the magazines and for the convention programs; yet in this regard he always kept in the background, never seeking to occupy the spotlight. A comparable ancient example might be cited. When Joab defeated the Ammonites at Rabbah, he made sure that King David received the credit for the victory.—2 Samuel 12:26-28.
20 Truly, there are many fine examples, past and present, giving us powerful reasons to be humble. However, there are many more reasons for us to be humble, and these as well as aids to our being humble will be considered in the following article.
“Condescend” is often used with the meaning “assume an air of superiority.” But its main meaning—and its meaning in the New World Translation—is “unbend,” “waive the privileges of rank.”—See Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
Do You Remember?
□ What have been the fruits of pride?
□ Who has set the finest example in humility?
□ What shows who was the second greatest example of humility?
□ What fine example of humility did the apostle Paul set?
□ What prominent modern-day examples of humility do we have?
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Jesus gave a fine demonstration of humility
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Paul set a fine example of humility
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Brother Russell did not take credit to himself for the things he wrote