The Neglected Virtue

Read Proverbs 22

Featured Verse: Proverbs 22:4

“Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.”

St Augustine said, “If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.” Humility—the most under-appreciated and neglected of all the virtues—was the preeminent attribute of Jesus’ character, (Philippians 2:1-11) And since we call ourselves followers of Jesus, humility is to be the foundational virtue of our lives as well. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Yet in the days of the Biblical writers who lauded humility and implored its practice in our lives, the pagan world scoffed at the humble. To them, pride and dominance were highly regarded, while meekness and humility were to be avoided at all cost.  So to have a Biblical writer like Solomon (or David or Paul or Peter, for that matter) to  promote personal humility would have been a radical concept in the ancient world.

However, those Biblical writers redefined humility as a more noble concept; they saw it as simply having a right estimation of oneself rather than what the world saw as a weakness and a character flaw.  Having a proper estimation of oneself—that is really what humility is.  I like the story of the kids who built a clubhouse and then posted their number one rule on the door—I think they defined Biblical humility quite nicely by:

Nobody act too big,
Nobody act too small,
Everybody just act medium!

That’s good: Not too big, not too small…just see yourself as God sees you.  That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he taught about humility in Romans 12:3,

“Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to, but think soberly, according to the faith God has given you.”

It is this proper estimation of yourself that sets something quite powerful loose in your world and produces the kind of “riches and honor” that Solomon talked about.  You see, on the one hand, humility frees you from self-centeredness and arrogance, while on the other, it releases you from the vicious trap of low self-esteem. And in the process, true humility enables you to enter into a powerful lifestyle of ministering to the needs of others.  That is what Biblical humility does—and there are not many forces in this world as powerful as that.

So how can you cultivate this kind of humility?  There are many ways, but here is one:  Start thinking more of others and less of yourself.  Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

I came across a parable about a man who was talking with the Lord one day and said, “Lord, I’d like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”  The Lord led him to two doors.  He opened one of the doors and the man looked in.  In the middle of the room was a large round table.  In the middle of the table was a large pot of mouthwatering stew, but the people sitting at the table were thin and sickly; they appeared famished.  They were holding spoons with very long handles, and each found it possible to reach into the pot and take a spoonful…but impossible to get the spoons back to their mouths. The handle was longer than their arms.  As the man shuddered at the sight of their misery, the Lord said,  “You have just seen Hell.”

They went to the next room and found the same large round table with a large pot of mouthwatering stew in the middle.  These people had the same long-handled spoons, but unlike the first room, these were well-nourished and joyful people.  The man said, “Lord, I don’t understand.” The Lord replied, “It is simple—it takes one skill:  They’ve learned to feed each other, while the miserable think only of themselves. You have just seen heaven.”

Let me give you a challenge for this week: Forget about yourself!  Try it.  Practice being absent minded when it comes to you.  Get you out of your thoughts … and replace them with prayers of blessings and plans for serving other people in your life. Just as Jesus did, give yourself away with absolutely no thought of getting anything in return.  Surprise someone with compassion. Heap some unexpected and undeserved kindness on another.  Find the most unlikely object of God’s love, and love them just as God would.

Try it, and you’ll experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

“The voice of humility is God’s music, and the silence of humility is God’s rhetoric.” ~Francis Quarles

Winning At Life:

Identify one person whom you can serve this week—and do it without being noticed!


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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