Listen to the secular media and you’ll be bombarded with messages telling you that that you’re all-sufficient, your needs are most important, that you control your destiny, that power is in your hands. It all adds up to the sometimes subtle, but always subversive, message that you don’t need God or other people.
The Bible’s message is countercultural. Believers are commanded to be humble in several places in the Scriptures. For example, James chapter 4 verse 10 says: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (NIV).
Though it can be defined in different ways and is comprised of various components, for me, the gist of humility is understanding our lowly position relative to God and fully submitting to God in a sense of reverence. In terms of our relationship with others, humility is not thinking we are more important than other people such that our needs come before theirs.
Humility versus pride
Humility is the opposite of pride. I think of pride in this context not as self-belief or confidence (which are not, in themselves, bad things). I see pride as arrogance that puffs up, a complete submission to one’s own ego: the single-minded pursuit of our desires, above all else, without regard for what God wants and the impact on others.
The Bible is also full of admonitions against pride, for instance, Proverbs warns that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs chapter 16 verse 18).
Jesus is the antithesis of pride. The son of God who had every reason to be proud, is described like this in Philippians chapter 2 verses 5 to 11:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Now to King Hezekiah. I have been thinking about King Hezekiah in the Old Testament and how his story powerfully illustrates the importance of humility.
The Bible says that King Hezekiah “did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God, and in accordance with the law and the commandments, to seek his God, he did with all his heart; and he prospered” (2 Chronicles chapter 31 verses 20-21, New Revised Standard Version). I read this and thought: what a glowing description! What an admirable ruler.
Fast-forward to the next chapter. Verses 24-25 of chapter 32 say Hezekiah was terminally ill and prayed to God, who gave him a miraculous sign. Hezekiah did nothing for God in return because “his heart was proud.”
Can you imagine that? My mind was blown. Here was a man who had been serving God and seeing God at work and he still developed a prideful heart!
I struggled to understand how a man could go from seeking God wholeheartedly to becoming so full of pride. Perhaps prosperity got to his head and he was tempted to think his success was all because of him and not from God (2 Chronicles chapter 32 verses 27 – 29 give us a glimpse of his riches).
No matter what the reason for Hezekiah’s response, expectedly, God’s wrath came down on Hezekiah (2 Chronicles chapter 32 verse 25). My reaction was: yes, God, he deserves the punishment!
But then Hezekiah did a remarkable thing. He came to his senses. Fast.
Verse 26 says he humbled himself; and God turned away His wrath!
Just like that.
This tells me a lot about the heart of a man who can acknowledge his wrong and change. It means Hezekiah wasn’t too far gone in the sin of pride. It also tells me that God is merciful and gracious and did not hold Hezekiah’s pride against him once he repented. Indeed, God did the same thing for evil King Manasseh when he repented of pride - God restored him to his kingdom (2 Chronicles chapter 33 verses 10-13).
Hezekiah went through an almost dizzying journey from humility to pride and back to humility again. It made me think about my own life. I asked myself some hard questions. Has there been any point where I allowed pride to get in the way? In those instances, have I responded with a confession of my sin and recommitment to humility, and therefore, holiness?
Friends, it is easy to get caught up in the trappings of this world, the allure of the material things and the good feelings caused when others heap accolades on us. We ourselves may look at the good things we have and think: “I did that!” “I worked hard! I sacrificed! I deserve it!” And the world emphasises the message that: it’s all about us, life is what you make it. That you have all the power to determine the outcome.
Don’t believe the lie. It is an illusion cleverly masquerading as truth.
Let’s be like the Apostle Paul and count everything dung compared to knowing Christ (Philippians chapter 3 verse 8, KJV), and making Him known. Obedience must become our food, like it was for Jesus (John chapter 4 verse 34). May we be sustained by doing our Master’s will. Hallelujah!
Lord, we pray that you will remove pride from our hearts.
Humility is the key to seeing God’s grace, mercy and favour.
So to answer the question I raised in the headline of this article: who needs humility? The answer is easy. Everyone.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She won the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers prize in the Press Service International young writer program, the 2019 Tronson Award (International) and the 2021 Basil Sellers award for International Senior Writers. Every day, she loves experiencing the beautiful surprises that God has stored up for her and longs to keep cultivating a servant-heart.