A Class on Humility?

Posted by TJ Klapperich on 12/07/2006

I remember hearing a sermon when I was in college.  I do not remember the text or even the theme, but I do remember one statement that stood out.  The preacher, Les Ollila, quipped in this humorous style, "We would like to offer a class on humility, but who would teach it?"  This is a rough quotation, but the point is clear; humility is a necessary but difficult virtue.  Often as soon as we believe we have attained it, we are no longer humble.


A couple of weeks ago I preach on James 4:6 as I worked through a series on James.  The verse clearly states that the way to find God’s grace is to humble ourselves.  Conversely, the way to find God resisting us is to be proud people.  This really goes to the heart of faith.  It is impossible to have faith in God without humbling oneself to God.  This is not a physical or ascetic humbling, but a spirit of humility.  We must recognize that we have nothing to offer God.  He does not need us.  He may choose to use us and even reward us, but He does not need us.  God gives his grace to those who approach him with a humble spirit.  We cannot come to God in faith with an arrogant attitude that God somehow needs us.  That is not the unreserved trust of faith, but the arrogance of unbelief.

Humility is not only necessary to conversion; it is an integral part of our sanctification.  Sanctification is really a carrying forward in maturity and holiness of what God began at our conversion.  We must strive for humility.  This is difficult because we can strive to have people believe we are humble.  Or we can attempt to be humble in order to be pleased with ourselves.  Neither of these is true humility.  Humility for wrong motives is simply pride playing dress-up.  It is like small children wearing their parents’ clothes and pretending to be adults.  Wearing larger clothes does not make them adults, or soldiers, or brides.   It simply dresses them in the clothes of that position.  Similarly, saying humble phrases like, "It was nothing," or doing things to make others believe we are humble is not humility.  It is simply putting on clothes that do not fit.  True humility is a matter of the inner person.  It is having a biblical view of ourselves.  We must recognize who we are and who God is.  As we embrace a biblical concept of God and of ourselves we move toward real humility.  As James says later in 4:10,  "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."