I wonder if The Blessing of Humility is Jerry Bridges’ final book. It was published posthumously, but soon enough after his death that it’s very possible there was still another work somewhere in the editing process. Either way, a book on humility would make a fitting final work for a man who taught and exemplified that very virtue.
The character trait of humility is the second-most frequently taught trait in the New Testament, second only to love. At one time I counted fifty instances of love taught, either by precept or example, in the New Testament; I counted forty instances of humility. I regard these two traits as the foundational stones of Christian character. All other character traits, in one way or another, are built upon love and humility.
Yet we so seldom hear any message or read any books on these two subjects. I think this is because they are so intimidating to us. Any honest Bible teacher, whether in speaking or in writing, realizes how far short he or she comes to exemplifying either of these character traits, so there is a reluctance to teach on a subject where one has made so little progress.
This is understandable, of course, even if it is not excusable. It is difficult to teach with confidence and authority in an area where the teacher is so aware of his failings and shortcomings. And yet humility is the king of virtues and one every Christian must pursue. At some point every teacher or preacher owes it to himself and his students or congregation to research, teach, and full-out pursue it.
Bridges insists “A life of humility is not an option for a believer to choose or reject. It is a command of God.” To teach the beauty and value of humility as well as to start on down the path toward humility he turns to the Beatitudes saying, “these expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action.” In other words, when Jesus taught how to live before God and before man, he was teaching how to live with humility.
He goes on: “I can guarantee you that if you are honest with yourself and you let the Beatitudes search you, you will see yourself to be a greater sinner than you thought yourself to be.” This is true. But, of course, as he does in every one of his books, Bridges points constantly to the centrality of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. In this way the purpose of the book is not to leave the sinner wallowing in his sin, but to give him the tools to help him change and to give him the confidence that God is eager and willing to help him change. This is not a “you can do it!” and “try harder!” kind of book, but a book that is deeply reliant on the work of the gospel and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. There can be no true humility without these.
The heart of the book is 8 strong chapters, each of which addresses one of the Beatitudes. Bridges shows that the truly humble person is poor in spirit, mourns over his or her sin, is meek toward God and other people, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful toward other people, is pure in heart, is a peacemaker, and considers himself or herself blessed when persecuted or reviled for righteousness’ sake. This is an intimidating list of virtues that none of us will ever perfectly attain to on this side of the grave. Yet the formidable list is also a profound challenge for we can have confidence that it is God’s joy to give us these in greater measure as we pursue him through his Word. It is God’s joy to have us imitate his Son who was ultimately and beautifully humble.
Those who have read Bridges in the past will not be surprised to know that the final chapter is titled “Humility and the Gospel” and here Bridges shows that our humility can never surpass our understanding of the gospel and our reliance upon it. “If you have honestly evaluated yourself in the light of the eight character traits in the Beatitudes, you have probably seen yourself to be a worse sinner than you thought. You might even want to join the apostle Paul as the foremost of sinners. If that is your self-evaluation, you are in a good place. That is a sign that you also are growing in humility. What is it, though, that will keep us from becoming discouraged as we become more and more aware of the sin that still dwells within us? The answer is the gospel.” Indeed, it is. And while humility is the theme of the book, it is never once separated from the precious gospel.
Bridges wants his readers to understand that “Humility is not an optional add-on for the super-spiritual; it is for all believers to practice in our daily lives.” The one who reads this book will inevitably be convinced of the beauty of humility, convicted of his lack of humility, and encouraged that God loves to help his people grow in this most precious of virtues. The Blessing of Humility is a sweet little book that will lay down the challenge and point the reader toward the solution. In the opening pages Bridges says, “This book can be read completely in about two hours or less. You may want to do that to get an overview of the book. However, the real value of this book will come as you then read each chapter reflectively and prayerfully. Ask God to help you see yourself as you really are in the light of each of the character traits covered in the eight Beatitudes. And then ask God to help you grow in the areas where you see yourself to be most needy.” Do it just like that. Read it and consider reading it with a group of friends. You will benefit, they will benefit, and everyone around you will benefit.