Happy Are the Humble
“God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 PETER 5:5.
1, 2. How did Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount relate the matter of being happy to that of being humble?
ARE being happy and being humble related? In his most famous sermon, Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived, describes nine happinesses, or felicities. (Matthew 5:1-12) Did Jesus relate being happy to being humble? Yes, he did, for being humble is involved in a number of the happinesses that he mentioned. For example, a person has to be humble to be conscious of his spiritual need. Only the humble are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And the proud are not mild-tempered and not merciful, nor are they peacemakers.
2 The humble are happy because it is right and honest to be humble. Moreover, the humble are happy because it is wise to be humble; it makes for good relations with Jehovah God and fellow Christians. Furthermore, humble people are happy because it is an expression of love on their part to be humble.
3. Why does honesty obligate us to be humble?
3 Why does honesty require us to be humble? For one thing, because all of us inherit imperfection and keep making mistakes. The apostle Paul said of himself: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good; for ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is fine is not present.” (Romans 7:18) Yes, all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Candor will keep us from being proud. To admit a mistake takes humility, and honesty will help us to accept the blame whenever we make a mistake. Since we keep falling short of what we strive to do, we have sound reason to be humble.
4. What compelling reason is given at 1 Corinthians 4:7 for our being humble?
4 The apostle Paul gives us another reason why honesty should make us humble. He says: “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 though you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) There is no question about it, for us to take glory to ourselves, to be proud of our possessions, abilities, or attainments, would not be honest. Honesty contributes to our having a good conscience before God, so that we may “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
5. How will honesty also help us when we have made a mistake?
5 Honesty helps us to be humble when we make a mistake. It will make us readier to accept the blame, instead of trying to justify ourselves or shift the blame onto someone else. Thus, while Adam blamed Eve, David did not blame Bath-sheba, saying, ‘She should not have bathed herself in full view. I could not help being tempted.’ (Genesis 3:12; 2 Samuel 11:2-4) Really, it might be said that on the one hand, being honest helps us to be humble; on the other hand, being humble helps us to be honest.
Faith in Jehovah Helps Us to Be Humble
6, 7. How does faith in God assist us to be humble?
6 Faith in Jehovah will also help us to be humble. Appreciating how great the Creator, the Universal Sovereign, truly is will prevent us from taking ourselves too seriously. How well the prophet Isaiah reminds us of this! At Isaiah 40:15, 22, we read: “Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted. . . . There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers.”
7 Faith in Jehovah will also help us when we feel we have suffered an injustice. Rather than fret over the matter, we will humbly wait upon Jehovah, as the psalmist reminds us at Psalm 37:1-3, 8, 9. The apostle Paul makes the same point: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says Jehovah.”—Romans 12:19.
Humility—The Course of Wisdom
8. Why does humility make for a good relationship with Jehovah?
8 There are many reasons why being humble is the course of wisdom. One is that, as already indicated, it makes for good relations with our Maker. God’s Word plainly states at Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” We also read at Proverbs 16:18: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Sooner or later the proud come to grief. It simply has to be that way because of what we read at 1 Peter 5:5: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” You will find the same point in the illustration that Jesus gave of the Pharisee and the tax collector who were each praying. It was the humble tax collector who was proved more righteous.—Luke 18:9-14.
9. What help is humility in times of adversity?
9 Humility is the course of wisdom because humility makes it easier for us to heed the counsel found at James 4:7: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God.” If we are humble, we will not rebel when Jehovah permits us to suffer adversity. Humility will enable us to be content with our circumstances and to endure. A proud person is discontented, always wants more, and rebels at grievous circumstances. On the other hand, the humble person endures hardships and trials, even as Job did. Job suffered the loss of all his possessions and was smitten with a painful malady, and then his wife even counseled him to take the course of pride, saying: “Curse God and die!” How did he respond? The Bible record tells us: “He said to her: ‘As one of the senseless women speaks, you speak also. Shall we accept merely what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9, 10) Because Job was humble, he did not rebel but wisely submitted to whatever Jehovah allowed to come upon him. And finally he received a rich reward.—Job 42:10-16; James 5:11.
Humility Makes for Good Relations With Others
10. How does humility improve our relations with fellow Christians?
10 Humility is the course of wisdom because it makes for good relations with our fellow Christians. Well does the apostle Paul counsel us: “[Do] nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:3, 4) Humility will wisely keep us from competing with others or trying to outshine others. Such mental attitudes make problems for us and for our fellow Christians.
11. Why can humility help us to avoid making mistakes?
11 Time and time again humility will help us to avoid making mistakes. How so? Because humility will keep us from being overconfident. Rather, we will appreciate Paul’s counsel at 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” The proud person is too self-confident, so he is prone to make mistakes because of outside influences or his own weaknesses.
12. Humility will move us to meet what Scriptural obligation?
12 Humility will help us to meet the requirement of being in subjection. At Ephesians 5:21, we are counseled: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” Really, do not all of us need to be in subjection? Children need to be subject to their parents, wives to their husbands, and husbands to the Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22; 6:1) Then, in any Christian congregation, all, including the ministerial servants, have to show subjection to the elders. Is it not also true that elders are in subjection to the faithful slave class, especially as represented by the circuit overseer? Then again, the circuit overseer needs to be in subjection to the district overseer, and the district overseer to the Branch Committee of the land where he is serving. What about the Branch Committee members? They must be “in subjection to one another” and also to the Governing Body representing the faithful and discreet slave class, which, in turn, is accountable to Jesus, the enthroned King. (Matthew 24:45-47) As in any body of elders, members of the Governing Body have to respect the others’ points of view. For example, one may think he has a fine idea. But unless a sufficient number of the other members agree with his suggestion, he just has to put the matter aside. Truly, all of us need humility, for all of us are in subjection.
13, 14. (a) In what particular circumstance will humility help us? (b) What example did Peter set in regard to accepting counsel?
13 Especially is humility seen to be the course of wisdom in that humility makes it easier for us to accept counsel and discipline. Each of us needs discipline at times, and we do well to heed the counsel at Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” As has been well stated, humility takes the sting out of reproof or discipline. Additionally, the apostle Paul, at Hebrews 12:4-11, counsels us about the wisdom of humbly submitting to discipline. Only in this way can we hope to direct our future course wisely and in return gain the prize of everlasting life. What a happy outcome that will be!
14 In this regard we might point to the example of the apostle Peter. He received severe counsel from the apostle Paul, as we learn from the account at Galatians 2:14: “When I saw they were not walking straight according to the truth of the good news, I said to Cephas [Peter] before them all: ‘If you, though you are a Jew, live as the nations do, and not as Jews do, how is it that you are compelling people of the nations to live according to Jewish practice?’” Did the apostle Peter feel offended? Not lastingly, if at all, as can be seen from his later reference to “our beloved brother Paul” at 2 Peter 3:15, 16.
15. What is the relationship between our being humble and our being happy?
15 There is also the matter of being self-sufficient, content. We simply cannot be happy unless we are content with our lot, our privileges, our blessings. The humble Christian takes the attitude: “If God permits it, I can take it,” which is really what the apostle Paul says, as we read at 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” So we see again how humility is the course of wisdom, for it helps us to be happy regardless of what our lot may be.
Love Will Help Us to Be Humble
16, 17. (a) What Scriptural example highlights the greatest quality in helping us to be humble? (b) What secular example also illustrates this point?
16 More than anything else, unselfish love, a·gaʹpe, will help us to be humble. Why was Jesus able to endure so humbly his torture-stake experience that Paul describes to the Philippians? (Philippians 2:5-8) Why did he give no consideration to being equal with God? Because, as he himself said: “I love the Father.” (John 14:31) That is why he at all times directed glory and honor to Jehovah, his heavenly Father. Thus, on another occasion he stressed that only his heavenly Father was good.—Luke 18:18, 19.
17 Illustrating this point is an incident in the life of one of America’s early poets, John Greenleaf Whittier. This man had a childhood sweetheart, and once at a spelling bee, she spelled a word right, whereas he spelled it wrong. She felt very bad about it. Why? As the poet recollected, she said: “I’m sorry that I spelled that word. I hate to go above you . . . because you see, I love you.” Yes, if we love someone, we will want that one to be above, not beneath, us because love is humble.
18. Humility will help us to heed what Scriptural counsel?
18 This is a good lesson for all Christians, especially brothers. When it comes to a special privilege of service, will we rejoice that our brother received it instead of us, or will we feel a tinge of jealousy and envy? If we truly love our brother, we will rejoice that he got that special assignment or recognition or privilege of service. Yes, humility will make it easy to heed the counsel: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) Another translation reads: “Honor one another above yourselves.” (New International Version) Then again, we are counseled by the apostle Paul: “Through love slave for one another.” (Galatians 5:13) Yes, if we have love, we will be glad to be at the service of our brothers, to slave for them, putting their interests and well-being ahead of our own, which requires humility. Humility will also keep us from boasting and thus avoid awakening in others the spirit of jealousy or envy. Paul wrote that love “does not brag, does not get puffed up.” Why not? Because the motive behind bragging and getting puffed up is selfish, egotistical, whereas love is the very essence of unselfishness.—1 Corinthians 13:4.
19. What Bible examples illustrate that humility and love go hand in hand, as do pride and selfishness?
19 David’s relationship with King Saul and his son Jonathan is a striking example of how love and humility go hand in hand and how pride and selfishness likewise go hand in hand. Because of David’s successes in battle, the women of Israel sang: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) Not being humble at all but, rather, being consumed with pride, Saul from then on nursed a murderous hatred for David. How different this was from the spirit of his son Jonathan! We read that Jonathan loved David as his own soul. (1 Samuel 18:1) So how did Jonathan respond when, in the course of events, it was apparent that Jehovah was blessing David and that he, not Jonathan, would succeed Saul as king of Israel? Did Jonathan feel jealous or envious? Not at all! Because of his great love for David, he could say, as we read at 1 Samuel 23:17: “Do not be afraid; for the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you yourself will be king over Israel, and I myself shall become second to you; and Saul my father also has knowledge to that effect.” Jonathan’s great love for David caused him humbly to accept what he perceived to be God’s will as to who was to succeed his father as king of Israel.
20. How did Jesus show the close relationship between love and humility?
20 Further underscoring the relationship between love and humility is what happened on the last night that Jesus Christ was with his apostles before he died. At John 13:1, we read that Jesus, “having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.” Following that, we read, Jesus washed his apostles’ feet, acting like a menial servant. What a powerful lesson in humility!—John 13:1-11.
21. In summary, why should we be humble?
21 Truly, there are many reasons to be humble. It is the right, the honest thing to be humble. It is the course of faith. It makes for good relations with Jehovah God and with our fellow believers. It is the course of wisdom. Above all, it is the course of love and brings true happiness.
How Would You Answer?
□ In what ways is honesty a help in being humble?
□ Why can faith in Jehovah help us to be humble?
□ What shows that being humble is the course of wisdom?
□ Why is love especially helpful to our being humble?
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Job humbly submitted himself to Jehovah. He did not “curse God and die”
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Peter humbly submitted when Paul counseled him in public