Today’s post is excerpted from the Pure Purpose Bible study. Get a more extended sample or order a copy for yourself, a gift, or small group.
What does humility look like in daily practice? Let’s explore four verses for application.
The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. Matthew 18:4
Consider what you think of when you consider how children approach or handle the following situations or attitudes. Let’s mainly consider young children, perhaps just prior to school age.
Children’s responses are typically pure. They pursue life whole-heartedly. Their extreme emotions and reactions are typically short-lived.
Some people brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them, but his followers told them to stop. When Jesus saw this, he was upset and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children. I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a little child, or you will never enter it.” Mark 10:13-15
Look at these verses along with Matthew 18:4. What do these verses tell us about humility?
(I find it amusing that the parents are the ones who brought the children to Jesus, and the disciples scolded the parents. And yet, Jesus doesn’t address the parents at all that we know of; he’s simply concerned with the children.)
God doesn’t tell us to become children. Of course, that’s not possible anyway. He uses words such as like and as, which are indications of a part of speech known as a simile, which compares and finds similarities between two unlike objects. In this case, children and adults.
We don’t become children. God doesn’t want us to be childish. We don’t act like children. We create a balance between our maturity as adults and our fresh, pure faith of childhood. The next verse sheds further light.
Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom. James 3:13
Our humility comes from wisdom. So we need our experiences to understand our relationship with God and the importance of humility, but our humility is childlike. It reminds me of “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”! God also tells us “those who are last now will someday be first, and those who are first now will someday be last” in Matthew 20:16. Easy for him to say since he is “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13
Seriously, when we take a look at the meaning of the word humility in James 3:13, we begin to understand the qualities of children Jesus referred to in his instruction for us to be like children. The Greek word for humility in this verse is found only a few times in the New Testament. While most other uses of the word humility in the New Testament closely relate to our English word for humility, this one differs.
According to the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, humility (prautes) in James 3:13 refers to “Meekness, but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his disposition, but an inwrought grace of the soul expressed primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit by which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist. Prautes is not readily expressed in English since the term ‘meekness’ suggests weakness, but it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness but in power. It is a balance born in strength and character.”
Rewrite the portions of this definition that surprise or challenge you the most. Put it in your own words to the best of your understanding.
How does this shed light on your understanding of humility and, specifically, what Jesus means when he instructs us to be like children?
… all of you should be very humble with each other. God is against the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
What are some reasons for clothing yourself in something?
When God instructs us to clothe ourselves, what might he be referring to? Consider the following verses.
- He has great glory because you gave him victories; you gave him honor and praise. You always gave him blessings; you made him glad because you were with him. Psalm 21:5-6
- You changed my sorrow into dancing. You took away my clothes of sadness, and clothed me in happiness. I will sing to you and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12
- She is strong and is respected by the people. She looks forward to the future with joy. She speaks wise words and teaches others to be kind. Proverbs 31:25-26
When we’re clothed in humility, we’re covered. It’s what people see, and it’s how we’re identified. I want to be clothed in humility. What about you?
Remind the believers to yield to the authority of rulers and government leaders, to obey them, to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people. Titus 3:1-2
What’s the difference between showing and telling?
Did you have Show-and-Tell when you were in school? It was always an exciting day for me. And I think it was even more exciting to watch my daughters experience it. In kindergarten, each week focused on a letter of the alphabet, and on one day of each week, students could bring in items beginning with the designated letter. Such excitement! I imagine a circle of eager faces, pulling that surprise item out of a paper sack, holding it up with an eagerness to share the story behind it. Can you hear the reactions?
“Where did you get it?”
“Can I hold it?”
Imagine if it wasn’t Show-and-Tell…only Tell. Imagine the same circle of children. I’m certain they’d still tell their stories enthusiastically, but the anticipation of seeing what’s inside the bag is gone. The excitement spreading like wildfire around the circle is gone. The experience of seeing, touching, smelling…gone.
Telling is important, but showing is more complete. And more authentic. When we only tell about our humility, is it really humility? Titus 3:2 instructs us to show our humility.
Humility is an action.
God is active.
 Zodhiates, Spiros. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. Chattanooga TN: AMG, 2009.