What Is True Humility?

November 16, 2009 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

In our discussion about the trend of SGMers’ using their Facebook status to make breathless declarations about the wonders of their Sovereign Grace churches, someone brought up the way that many of his SGM friends also use these Facebook blurbs to talk about their sinfulness and struggles with pride.

Sally Sovereign Grace is grateful for God’s grace because she is the worst sinner she knows.

Sam Sovereign Grace is battling his pride today.

That got me to thinking about the subject of humility, and how “normal” (non-Sovereign Grace Ministries) Christians work toward being more humble. 

You see, in non-SGM Christianity, such outspoken declarations about one’s humility or pride are definitely not the norm…and yet I don’t believe that non-SGM Christians are particularly more prideful or less humble than the Christians in Sovereign Grace churches.

In fact, I’d venture to say that the very act of calling attention to one’s prideful condition – or the very act of making frequent statements about one’s “worst sinner” status as a way to be more humble – would, in the non-SGM Christian world, be viewed as counter-productive to attaining more of the virtue of humility.

Why, you ask?

Well, in the non-SGM Christian world where I come from, at least, true humility is basically defined as self-forgetfulness

And the bottom line of all that chatter about your own “worst sinner” status, your own struggles with pride, your own lack of humility, simply cannot be self-forgetfulness.

Instead, all you’re doing is drawing further attention to yourself.

The Christians I’ve known who have exhibited the most humility have been those who do what Paul tells the Philippians to do:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

                                                — Philippians 2:3-7

That passage tells us that Jesus “made Himself nothing.”  How do we, as humans, follow His example?  How do we GENUINELY and HONESTLY “make ourselves nothing”? 

Do we do this by forever sounding off about what bad sinners we are?  Do we make a point out of introducing ourselves as the “worst sinners we know”?  Do we ramble on about our sinful pride and our lack of humility to anyone who will listen?

Is that really “making ourselves nothing”?

I would respectfully submit to you that it is not.

I would suggest instead that such talk actually produces the opposite effect.

After all, the end result of blathering on about oneself – whether one is celebrating one’s accomplishments or bemoaning one’s own badness – is that one is simply drawing attention to oneself.

Think about this the next time you hear one of your leaders rambling on about his own uselessness or worthlessness before he gets into his actual teaching.  Or when your pastor and the “apostolic” guest speaker are trading “humorous” put-downs during your pastor’s introduction of said guest speaker. 

At first blush, such an introduction might seem to make the leader sound like he’s really humble – that he really doesn’t think much of himself.  But interestingly enough, guess what the leader has done with such remarks?  Yep.  He’s actually made you think about him MORE, rather than LESS.

Sorry, folks, but that’s not “making himself nothing” – that’s making himself the center of your attention.

And when you make similar statements in your Facebook status, you’re doing the very same thing.  You’re just calling attention to yourself.  Sure, it may be (on the surface, at least) negative attention.   But it’s attention nonetheless.

So the next time you’re feeling convicted of the sin of pride – the next time you want to pursue humility – a good place to start would be by shutting up about your big bad sinful self.  Whether you’re on Facebook, or whether you’re just chattering on in front of cameras or from behind a pulpit, every time you direct people’s attention – positive OR negative attention – to yourself, you’re doing something that demonstrates the opposite of true humility.

© 2009, Kris. All rights reserved.