Be Humble: Be Wise and Realistic

By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2009
A humble person is a realistic person and a realistic person is a wise person and a wise person is a teachable person and a teachable person will learn, grow, and become fruitful and successful in God’s eyes.

Text: James 4:6-8


Have you ever heard someone say “Let’s get real”? In this article we want to get real; to get realistic; to get wise; to get sober minded; to get humble! A humble person is a realistic person and a realistic person is a wise person and a wise person is a teachable person and a teachable person will learn, grow, and become fruitful and successful in God’s eyes.

I. What Is Humility?

Have you ever thought about how to define humility? Most are a little fuzzy about what it means to be humble. Webster gives these definitions:

  1. Not proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive,
  2. Reflecting, expressing or offered in a spirit of deference of submission,
  3. A ranking low in hierarchy or scale, not costly or luxurious.

While most people would have difficulty coming up with a clear biblical definition of humility, most people have no difficulty discerning the opposite of humility:

  1. The aroma of arrogance,
  2. the smell of selfishness, or
  3. the putridness of pride.

Pride is concerned with who is right, while humility is concerned with what is right.

We know the opposite of humility when we see it – pride or arrogance. But do we know the difference between humility and false humility?

  1. Humility acknowledges our true limitations; while…
  2. False humility denies the ways in which God has gifted us.

Most of us have heard about the pastor who was known for his great humility. In fact, he was so humble that his church gave him a medal for his humility and the first time he wore the medal the church took it away from him.

Here are some questions for consideration:

  1. Do you know anyone who is proud about being humble?
  2. Can we admit we are humble without being proud?
  3. How can we understand humility in ways that we can put into practice?

There is one simple guiding principle about humility: It involves not having the need to be or appear to be more than we are. A hypocrite is one who pretends to be better than he really is; a humble person is content with being who he really is. A proud person is un-teachable, he thinks “he knows it all,” whereas a humble person has a teachable attitude. He knows he doesn’t know it all.

Do you know anyone who has a “know it all” attitude? Are they liked? Probably not. Are proud people good listeners? Usually not. Do proud people inspire loyalty in you? Probably not. Do proud people learn what God wants them to learn? No, they are not teachable. Do proud people know that others don’t like them before it’s too late? Usually not. Do proud people experience God’s saving grace in their lives? Absolutely not!

What is God’s attitude toward proud people? He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6). Let’s consider how humility contributes to our success and how the lack of it (pride) contributes to our failure (cf. 1 Cor. 10:12).

II. Humility Identifies With the Humanity of Others

When Jesus humbled himself by setting aside his divine prerogatives, taking on human flesh and coming to earth; He identified with us in our weakness (Phil. 2:6-8). Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in all points was tempted as we are yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Humility identifies with the weaknesses and sympathizes with other’s shortcomings. Humility enables us to accept past failures, to find forgiveness and learn from them. Identifying with other normal humans who have feet of clay and who fail leads to a number of factors that contributes to becoming successful in God’s eyes:

  1. Successful people show kindness, understanding and help to others who fail.
  2. Successful people aren’t derailed by their own failures; they are to be expected.

Humble people extend themselves to understand, reach out as well as serve others. They developed a lot of relational equity and over time are highly appreciated and loved. The more giving, honest and understanding we are, the better our relationships. The people that we identify with are encouraged, helped and are usually grateful. Because humble people give without expecting anything in return; they receive a lot. They are “down to earth.” Friends that you are there for are usually there for you. People, who win in life, don’t condemn themselves; they accept God’s forgiveness.

III. What Is the Biggest Sickness of All?

Do you want to know, what is the biggest sickness of all? (Psa. 36:2; 1 John 1: 8, 10) People who think they have it all together are infected by a terrible and terminal sickness and they don’t even know that they are spiritually deaf and blind (Prov. 14:12; 2 Cor. 4:4).

A proud person: 1) is living a life of denial and self-deception because he is disconnected from reality; 2) has an inflated and unrealistic idea of himself and exaggerates his own importance. If you overestimate yourself, you are out of touch with reality (Rom. 12:3).

A humble person: 1) Knows and acknowledges his weaknesses; 2) not only admits when he is wrong; but, 3) receives correction and constructive feedback from others. A willingness to admit you are wrong correlates with a teachable and wise person. We can’t grow and learn without admitting our mistakes. How can we possibly get better if we don’t think anything is wrong?

Humble people view constructive feedback as a gift and are grateful rather than be resistant and defensive. A humble person handles failures and imperfections well. Defensiveness is the mark of a fool. Solomon said, “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse” (Prov. 9:7); “A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise” (Prov. 15:12).

A proud spirit: 1) resists correction, 2) contributes to a lack of success, and 3) it results in unhealthy relationships. Have you ever met someone who did something wrong and blamed you for it? That’s not a humble person. Humble people accept personal responsibility.

IV. Giving It Up and Gaining It All

What is humility? It is acknowledging our success results from God and others. It is giving up the need to be greater than we are. It is giving up thinking that we know it all. It is giving up thinking that we can do it all. It is giving up thinking that we have to do well all the time. It is giving up thinking that we are better than others when others don’t do well. It is giving up needing to be right and good all the time and giving up defensiveness. A humble person is a real person; a humble person is an honest and realistic person.

What is the truth?

We don’t know it all. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always get it right. We are as imperfect as the next person. We are not right or good all the time. We all have our limitations. We all have feet of clay and none of us have all the pieces that make up “the puzzle” we call reality. That’s the truth, don’t let people say differently.

No matter who we are, humility is always the most desirable option and it is very evident to others. Accomplishments don’t have to make humble people proud or falsely humble. They have learned to give God the credit. Some may excel in some aspect of their lives but it takes a humble person to learn how to please God.

What is God’s attitude toward those who are humble: honest, authentic and realistic? James 4:6 says that God “gives grace to the humble.” That grace may be expressed in a variety of ways. God gives humble people grace in the form of the knowledge, desire and power to please Him. Are you humble? If so, how would you know?

What Are Some Practical Manifestations of Humility?

  1. Saying you were wrong and are sorry to others when you fail others (Acts 24:16).
  2. Seeking to honestly understand a person/situation before formulating conclusions.
  3. Getting rid of the defensiveness that causes us to appear more than we really are.
  4. Serving the people under you as well as those over you – showing no favoritism.
  5. Believing that there’s no task, person or position that’s beneath you.
  6. Embracing a spirit of gratitude and rejecting an attitude of entitlement.
  7. When hurt by others, listen to their heart and try and make things better.
  8. Give up trying to mislead others into thinking you are better than you are.
  9. Forbearing in love – making allowance for the weakness in others and yourself.
  10. Viewing failure as a friend and constructive criticism as a gift to help you improve.

In short, a humble person realizes, “There but by the grace of God go I.

Since God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6):

Let us reject the opposite extremes of:

  1. pride
  2. false humility.

Let us stop being preoccupied with who is right and focus on doing what is right.

Let us stop insisting on our rights and ask God to help us cultivate true humility.

But don’t make the mistake of that minister by bragging about how humble you are.

Let’s be quick to give God all the credit for any good that we do!

Leave a Comment