Cultivate Genuine Humility
“The humble people you will save.”—2 SAMUEL 22:28.
1, 2. What have many world rulers had in common?
THE pyramids of Egypt bear testimony to men who once ruled that land. Others who left their mark on history were Sennacherib of Assyria, Alexander the Great of Greece, and Julius Caesar of Rome. All such rulers had one thing in common. They did not leave a record of being genuinely humble.—Matthew 20:25, 26.
2 Could you imagine any of the above-mentioned rulers being in the habit of searching their realm to find lowly subjects in need of comfort? Of course not! Nor could you imagine that they would go to the humble dwellings of crushed citizens to uplift the spirits of such ones. How different their attitude toward lowly human creatures is from that of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, Jehovah God!
The Greatest Example of Humility
3. How does the Supreme Ruler treat his human subjects?
3 Jehovah is unsearchably great and lofty, yet “his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) And what does Jehovah do when he finds lowly worshippers who are crushed in spirit as a result of various trials? In a sense, he “is residing” with such ones by means of his holy spirit “to revive the spirit of the lowly ones and to revive the heart of the ones being crushed.” (Isaiah 57:15) Thus, his revived worshippers are better able to resume serving him with rejoicing. What humility on God’s part!
4, 5. (a) How did the psalmist feel about God’s way of ruling? (b) What does God’s “condescending” to help “the lowly one” mean?
4 No one else in the universe has humbled himself to the same extent as the Sovereign Lord in order to help sinful humans. The psalmist could write: “Jehovah has become high above all the nations; his glory is above the heavens. 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; he exalts the poor one from the ashpit itself.”—Psalm 113:4-7.
5 Note the word “condescending.” When referring to humans, that word can have a bad connotation, ‘to assume an air of superiority to one inferior or less fortunate.’ Such a haughty attitude could never describe Jehovah God, who is pure and holy and thus devoid of “haughtiness.” (Mark 7:22, 23) But “condescend” can also carry the sense of coming down to the level of one socially lower or descending from one’s rank or dignity in dealings with an inferior. Thus, some Bibles render Psalm 113:6 as saying that God humbles himself. How well that conveys the image of our humble God giving loving attention to the needs of his imperfect human worshippers!—2 Samuel 22:36.
Why Jesus Was Humble
6. What was Jehovah’s greatest act of humility?
6 God’s greatest act of humility and love was that of sending his beloved firstborn Son to be born on earth and raised as a human for the salvation of mankind. (John 3:16) Jesus taught us the truth about his heavenly Father and then gave up his perfect human life to take away “the sin of the world.” (John 1:29; 18:37) Perfectly reflecting his Father, including Jehovah’s humility, Jesus was willing to do what God asked of him. That was the greatest example of humility and love ever set by one of God’s creatures. Not all appreciated Jesus’ humility, his enemies even considering him to be “the lowliest one of mankind.” (Daniel 4:17) Nonetheless, the apostle Paul realized that his fellow believers should imitate Jesus and thus be humble in their dealings with one another.—1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:3, 4.
7, 8. (a) How did Jesus learn to be humble? (b) What appeal does Jesus make to potential disciples?
7 Paul highlighted Jesus’ outstanding example, writing: “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.”—Philippians 2:5-8.
8 Some might wonder, ‘How did Jesus learn to be humble?’ It was a marvelous benefit of his close association with his heavenly Father for aeons of time, during which he served as God’s “master worker” in the creation of all things. (Proverbs 8:30) After the rebellion in Eden, God’s Firstborn was in a position to note his Father’s humble dealings with human sinners. Accordingly, when on earth, Jesus reflected his Father’s humility and made the appeal: “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; John 14:9.
9. (a) What did Jesus find appealing in children? (b) Using a young child, what lesson did Jesus teach?
9 Because Jesus was genuinely humble, little children were not afraid of him. Rather, they felt drawn to him. He for his part showed fondness for children and gave attention to them. (Mark 10:13-16) What was it about children that Jesus found so appealing? Certainly, they had desirable qualities that some of his adult disciples did not always display. It is a simple fact that little children view adults as being superior. You can see this by the many questions they ask. Yes, compared with many adults, children are more teachable and not as prone to pride. On one occasion, Jesus singled out a young child and said to His followers: “Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” He continued: “Whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:3, 4) Jesus stated the rule: “Everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.”—Luke 14:11; 18:14; Matthew 23:12.
10. What questions will we consider?
10 That truth raises important questions. Our prospect of gaining everlasting life is in part dependent on our cultivating genuine humility, but why do Christians sometimes find it difficult to be humble? Why is it a challenge for us to swallow our pride, so to speak, and react to trials with humility? And what will help us to succeed in cultivating genuine humility?—James 4:6, 10.
Why It Is Difficult to Be Humble
11. Why is it not surprising that we struggle to be humble?
11 If you have found yourself struggling to be humble, you are not alone. Back in 1920, this journal discussed the Bible’s counsel on the need for humility, commenting: “As we thus see how great a value the Lord places upon humility it should encourage all true disciples to cultivate this quality daily.” Then came this frank admission: “Notwithstanding all these exhortations of the Scriptures the perversity of human nature seems to be such that those who become the Lord’s people and who engage to run in this way seem to find more trouble, more to contend against, in this matter than in any other.” That highlights one reason why true Christians have to struggle to be humble—our sinful human nature craves undue glory. This is because we are the descendants of a sinful couple, Adam and Eve, who gave in to selfish cravings.—Romans 5:12.
12, 13. (a) How is the world an obstacle to Christian humility? (b) Who makes our struggle to cultivate humility even more difficult?
12 Another reason we may find it difficult to display humility is that we are surrounded by a world that encourages people to strive to be superior to others. Among this world’s common goals is a craving for satisfying “the desire of the [sinful] flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) Rather than being dominated by such worldly desires, Jesus’ disciples are to keep their eye simple and to focus on doing God’s will.—Matthew 6:22-24, 31-33; 1 John 2:17.
13 A third reason why cultivating and displaying humility is difficult is that the originator of haughtiness, Satan the Devil, rules this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 3:6) Satan promotes his wicked traits. For example, he sought worship from Jesus in exchange for giving him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” Ever humble, Jesus flatly rejected the Devil’s offer. (Matthew 4:8, 10) Likewise, Satan tempts Christians to seek glory for themselves. Instead, humble Christians strive to follow Jesus’ example, directing praise and honor to God.—Mark 10:17, 18.
Cultivating and Displaying Genuine Humility
14. What is “mock humility”?
14 In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul warned against the outward pretense of humility to impress men. Paul described this as “a mock humility.” Those who make a mere pretense of being humble are not spiritual people. Rather, they betray that they are really “puffed up” with pride. (Colossians 2:18, 23) Jesus pointed to examples of such false humility. He condemned the Pharisees for their showy prayers and for the way they fasted with sad and disfigured faces to be observed by men. In contrast, for our private prayers to have value before God, they should be uttered humbly.—Matthew 6:5, 6, 16.
15. (a) What can we do to maintain lowliness of mind? (b) What are some good examples of humility?
15 Christians are helped to maintain genuine lowliness of mind by focusing on the best examples of humility, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Doing this involves a regular study of the Bible and Bible study aids provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) Such a study is vital for Christian overseers, “that [their] heart may not exalt itself above [their] brothers.” (Deuteronomy 17:19, 20; 1 Peter 5:1-3) Reflect on the numerous examples of ones who were blessed for their humble attitude, such as Ruth, Hannah, Elizabeth, and many others. (Ruth 1:16, 17; 1 Samuel 1:11, 20; Luke 1:41-43) Think, too, of the many fine examples of prominent men who remained humble in Jehovah’s service, such as David, Josiah, John the Baptizer, and the apostle Paul. (2 Chronicles 34:1, 2, 19, 26-28; Psalm 131:1; John 1:26, 27; 3:26-30; Acts 21:20-26; 1 Corinthians 15:9) And what about the many modern-day examples of humility that we find in the Christian congregation? By meditating on these examples, true Christians will be helped to have “lowliness of mind toward one another.”—1 Peter 5:5.
16. How does the Christian ministry help us to be humble?
16 Having a regular share in the Christian ministry can also help us to be humble. Lowliness of mind can make us effective when we approach strangers we find from house to house and in other places. This is especially true when householders initially respond to the Kingdom message with apathy or rudeness. Our beliefs are often challenged, and humility can help the Christian to keep answering questions “with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Humble servants of God have moved to new territories and have helped people with different cultures and standards of living. Such ministers may humbly have to cope with the difficult task of learning a new language in order to be of better service to those with whom they want to share the good news. How commendable!—Matthew 28:19, 20.
17. What Christian responsibilities require humility?
17 With humility, many have fulfilled their Christian duties, putting the interests of others ahead of their own. For example, it takes humility for a Christian father to set aside time from his own pursuits to prepare and conduct an effective Bible study with his children. Humility also helps children to honor and be obedient to their parents, who are imperfect. (Ephesians 6:1-4) Wives who have unbelieving husbands often face humbling situations as they try to win over their mates by “chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Humility and self-sacrificing love are assets too when we lovingly care for the needs of sick and aging parents.—1 Timothy 5:4.
Humility Solves Problems
18. How can humility help us to resolve problems?
18 All of God’s human servants are imperfect. (James 3:2) At times, differences or misunderstandings may develop between two Christians. One may have a valid cause for complaint against another. Usually, such situations can be solved by applying this counsel: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Colossians 3:13) Admittedly, following this advice is not easy, but humility will help one put it into practice.
19. What must we remember when we speak to someone who has upset us?
19 Sometimes a Christian may feel that a valid cause for complaint is too serious to be covered over. Then, humility will help him to approach the alleged offender with a view to restoring peace. (Matthew 18:15) One reason that problems between Christians sometimes persist is that one or perhaps both parties are too proud to admit being at fault. Or the one who takes the initiative to approach the other may do so in a self-righteous, critical manner. In contrast, a genuinely humble attitude will go a long way toward solving many differences.
20, 21. What is one of the greatest helps to being humble?
20 A key step in developing humility is to pray for God’s help and spirit. But remember, “God . . . gives undeserved kindness [including his holy spirit] to the humble ones.” (James 4:6) So if you have a difference with a fellow believer, pray to Jehovah to help you humbly to admit any minor or major blame on your part. If you have been hurt and the offender says a sincere, “I’m sorry,” then humbly forgive. If doing this is difficult, prayerfully seek Jehovah’s help to rid your heart of any lingering haughtiness.
21 Understanding the many benefits that humility brings should move us to cultivate and maintain this precious quality. To that end, what wonderful examples we have in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ! Never forget the divine assurance: “The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Proverbs 22:4.
Points for Meditation
• Who are the best examples of humility?
• Why is humility difficult to cultivate?
• What can help us to be humble?
• Why is it so important to remain humble?
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Jesus was genuinely humble
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The world encourages people to strive to be superior to others
WHO photo by L. Almasi/K. Hemzǒ
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Humility helps us to approach strangers in our ministry
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Differences can often be solved by our humbly covering over the matter in love
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There are many ways in which Christians show humility