In his novel David Copperfield, Charles Dickens created the memorable character Uriah Heep – an obsequious, fawning, hand-wringing individual, who lives in his “’umble abode”. When the Bible recommends humility, it doesn’t mean that kind of insincere abjection and self-abasement. God intended no human being to be a footstool or a doormat. Our passage from Romans sums up the biblical position nicely – that we are to do ourselves no special favours, but learn to look at ourselves with clearsighted realism.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus describes accepting his yoke of humility and gentleness as a service that will bring us rest. In humility is peace, because perpetual striving and pretending are exhausting.
Humility is not easy for us, because we are naturally eager to be the first and have the best. It feels embarrassing to admit our wrongdoing or ignorance or inadequacy. Yet it brings peace, and serenity.
Notice how the biblical writers so often pair humility with gentleness; it seems they go together, and both these quiet disciplines are beautiful to observe in others but are habits that are hard to learn and acquire.
What images does the word “humble” conjure up for you? Are you attracted to people and things you could describe as “humble”, or do you find them difficult?
Run your mind through what would be an average day for you. If you were focusing on humility, how might that show up in your day? Would there need to be some changes, and what would they be?
In our passage from Philippians 2, we read, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Where is the balance between appropriate self-respect and humility?
Humble God, who stooped down to earth to find and rescue us, who came to walk alongside us in Jesus, who washed our feet and accepted all the vulnerability of ordinary human life, please give us the grace to be ourselves humble and lowly in heart. May we be content with what you have apportioned us, finding happiness somewhere in all our circumstances; and may we learn gentleness along with humility, and so become like Jesus, in whose holy name we pray; Amen.