What is Humility?

Written on 02/03/2023
Christian Dunn

Verse: 1 Peter 5:6

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

What is humility? We were having a conversation last night at the young adult group about what humility is, and it was eye opening for me. Someone asked a great question, one that I hadn't really considered in a long time. "What is humility?" 

Is humility feeling bad about yourself? Is it thinking you don't deserve good things? Is it thinking you are a failure, a loser, not worth God's time, or the time of others? Does it mean you should let others walk all over you and not stand up for yourself? Does it mean you should let yourself be treated poorly in relationships?

Biblically, the answer to all of those is a resounding "no." Genesis tells us we are created in the very image of God, Psalms tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, Jesus calls us his friends in John 15, Paul tells us in Romans that we have been adopted in God's family as co-heirs with Christ, and 1 John tells us that God loves us as his very own children. Therefore, humility can't mean that we are to loathe ourselves. If God loves us so deeply, what right do we have to hate ourselves?

So what is humility? Sometimes it helps to define something by thinking about what it is not. Biblically, humility is paired against pride. In the verse before this one we are told “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Pride is taking credit for what God has done. Pride is putting yourself first above God in your life. Pride is putting yourself first above other people. Your needs first. Your desires first. "God didn't help me, I got here on my own." "Why would God care what I do with my ______________." Pride is taking control of your life and choosing to ignore God's commands, God's leading, and God's "way, truth, and life."

If that is pride, then humility is the opposite. Humility is echoing Jesus' prayer from Luke 22, "not my will, but yours be done." Humility is putting God in charge. Humility is trusting God with our past, our present, and our future. Humility is looking not to our needs first, but the needs of others. Humility is recognizing that God's ways are higher than our ways.

When I used to teach a leadership class to teens my first assignment was for them to look up all the verses in the Bible that talk about humility. Why? Because pride is a giant obstacle in all of us, for truly following God. Where in your life do you need to practice biblical humility?