Still Pursing Humility: on the path to virtue


Toward the scorners He is scornful,

but to the humble He gives favor.

Proverbs 3:34


Humility is the gateway to all the other virtues. Clearly we would not seek virtues if we were not humble enough to know we need them. Perhaps it’s the most important virtue. But we don’t really need the superlative. It’s enough to know that it’s the starting place. Humility provides exclusive access to God’s presence, to Christ-likeness, and therefore the virtues that define what “being like Christ” is.

The problem with the attainment of humility is how do we know if we have achieved it? If we are so self-aware then are we really humble? It was Peter Kreeft who said humility is not to think less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. The humble person is not obsessed with the attainment of humility, rather their love for self has been evicted and replaced by a love for other people. They love other people so much that they demonstrate they love themselves less than others. Humility is more show than tell.

This is why the principle metaphor for humility is found in Phil. 2:5-11. This is the picture of Christ who humbled Himself to death, even death on the cross. The humility of Christ was not expressed in some feigned self-deprecating public display. Rather, his humility was expressed in what He did. He died other’s needs first. He was dying so that others might live.

We do not grow in humility by focusing on our need to be humble, but on the needs of others.  If you are fixated on being humble you will never get there. The most humble people wonder if they really are.

Humility is neither a destination nor a journey. Humility is a trajectory; humility is the trajectory of Christ who put the needs of others first.

Proverbs 3:34 explains that God favors the humble. God does not play favorites for the reason that God does not play with His favor. But God shows favor on those who are humble. So humble ourselves (down) he favors us (up.) Like Phil 2, this is the “down then up” trajectory of following Christ.

Conversely, He resists the proud (James 4:6). God can use anyone except for the prideful person. It’s not that God is incapable of using them, rather it is that they are not aware of their need for God.

The metaphors for our relationship with Christ express His supply for our deficiency:

He is the Shepherd for our lostness.

He is Living Water for our thirst.

He is the Vine that sustains the branches.

He is the Bread for our hunger.

All His humility was needed for all our need. And, joyfully, our every need is met because He did not focus on His own needs, but our needs.  Therefore, God has highly exalted Him. God shows favor to those who favor others.

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