I pray sometimes that God will make me humble. But inevitably I soon find myself feeling proud for asking God such a noble thing. It’s pathetic really. Embarrassing. I believe in humility. I believe that humility is the king of all virtues. But the sheer goodness of humility makes it especially tricky to pursue and my deep depravity makes it impossible to master.
Humility does not come naturally to me. It does not come naturally to any of us. But I have gone looking for it. I have gone looking for it in God’s Word and I have gone looking for it in God’s people. I am convinced it can be learned, and that’s because humility is not a feeling or an attitude—it’s action. You learn humility by seeing humility and then doing humility. Here are four observations I have made about learning this virtue.
To learn to be humble, find godly people who display humility and spend time with them. Observe them. Learn from them. Learn to behave like them. Learn how God made them humble. God calls us to Christian community in part so we have living, breathing examples of virtue in action. Seek out the humble people in your church and in your life, and make them your teachers.
To learn to be humble, volunteer for the lowliest of tasks. Do not ask to be up-front and in the public eye; ask to be in the back where you serve out-of-mind and out-of-sight. Every pastor has people show up at his church to tell how they can transform that church if only they can have access to the pulpit and the people. But in almost every case, they could better serve and transform the church by joyfully doing the lowest jobs where they will be seen by only Jesus. Almost every one of us will make more of a mark on the world by changing diapers and taking out trash than by preaching great sermons or writing great songs. The people who serve at the front of the room ought to be those who have first proven themselves at the back.
To learn to be humble, serve until it hurts. Maybe that’s not the right phrase, because serving doesn’t hurt. Not really. But prepare yourself to serve freely, willingly, and uncomplainingly. Serve in those times when life is busy and serve in those times when life is simple. Serve in those times you feel like it and in those times you don’t. Serve in those positions in which you receive gratitude and serve in those positions in which no one thinks to say a word. Serve and then serve some more. Learn humility as a lifestyle.
To learn to be humble, get to know Jesus. Most of all, this. It was Jesus who said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). And it was Jesus who displayed that humility perfectly and completely. According to Jesus, you have the choice before you: Humble yourself, or be humbled. Lower yourself, or get lowered. If you elevate yourself, eventually you will get busted down. Why? Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Know Jesus, and be like Jesus, the one man who perfectly exemplified the best of all virtues.
I am convinced that humility can be learned, and with God’s help I am determined to grow in it. I know that, until the day I go to be with Jesus, I will never be humble enough.