We had been attending a new church for over a year. In previous churches I had taught Sunday School, or led Bible Studies, or served on the Mission Committee. Regardless of this track record, this wasn’t happening in my new church. I wanted to serve, but wasn't asked to do so. It seemed to me that I needed to go through a season of “proving myself.” I prayed about how to do so.
I noticed that the nurseries needed help. Having seen my own five children through those early years, I had many years of mandatory parental nursery experience. I hadn't done nursery duty for a long time, but started missing services to be on the nursery schedule rotation. When I served, I prayed for the babies, and I tried to encourage some of the young parents, as God gave me the opportunity. I changed diapers, too. I served in this capacity for about a half year.
I learned that I had, indeed, been observed in my new area of service.
I learned something very important that day. I learned not to do anything to please men. This gave new meaning to Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24;
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
This whole nursery situation didn’t play out like I expected it would. I meant to show that I would work hard, that front-and-center wasn’t what mattered to me. Instead, I was misunderstood, and gave the opposite message to those watching. My problem was that I was trying to bring myself glory by hoping that church leadership would see the invisible neon yellow arrow floating over my head, pointing down at me, with the block letters spelling out H U M B L E over me. It didn’t work. I wasn’t truly being humble. I was still trying to impress, in an round-about way. I had an ultimatum to my “servant’s heart.”
Humility is the hardest virtue. It seems that it’s one of those things that isn’t rewarded in life. It’s only noticed if someone is looking for it or has a special appreciation for it. By its nature, it’s impossible to exercise humility and get positive instant feedback. If you speak of it, it immediately is neutralized by your seeking credit for it. In fact, Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Unlike college applicants and politicians, Christians should not brag.
Humility is the hardest virtue. It seems that it’s one of those things that isn’t rewarded in life.
Humility is a theme that runs throughout Scripture, with dozens of verses that encourage it, or warn of it’s opposite, the vice of pride. Philippians 2:3, as an example, telling us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Humility isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes faith and courage to be humble. Most of the other virtues are acknowledged and praised, when humility, by nature, shuns praise. You could be the humblest person in the whole church and maybe a few people would notice. Humble people don’t need to be front-and-center. If they are, they are not about themselves and their own agenda. They’re about God, and they’re about others.
What is true humility? The dictionary says to humble is “to lower in condition, importance, or dignity.” In the Greek, the word used in James 4:10, which says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” is tapeinoó (tap-i-no’-o). It means to make low, humble, humiliate.
To make lower than what? The verse in Philippians 2:3 specifically tells us, “in humility value others above yourselves.” Paul tells us that we should make ourselves lower than others. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-32 that there are two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Paul added valuing others above ourselves to Jesus’ command to love others as ourselves.
Humility places the worth of other people above our own. It is sacrificial and generous.
It is tempting to try to replicate the world’s emphasis on performance and achievement within the church. Some gifts are valued more than others, even though teachings on the church make it clear that we are all of equal importance. In addition, Jesus values things that don’t necessarily impress people when they are on our resumes. Jeremiah 9: 23-24 says;
“‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,’
declares the Lord.”
The verse in James 4:10 telling us to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” promises us that we can’t lose if we sincerely bow before God. God is the One who ultimately promotes us. When we lower ourselves before Him, all of the people around us will also be lifted up as we love and honor them in Jesus’ name. If we rejoice with those who soar, everybody wins, and humility will no longer be scarce. Instead, it will be standard. People around us will grow into their destinies and thrive, as a matter of course, and it will be God who is truly glorified!