Humility has its basis in an honest and realistic comparison of us with God. To compare ourselves with other people always allows us a great deal of wiggle room because we can always find flaws in other people's character. But these rationalizations are not really honest because our goal is not to be in the image of other people or them to be in our image. Our goal is to be in the image of God, and therefore the comparison must be with Him.
When we do that—and we do it honestly—we always come out on the short end of the stick. We are woefully poor (poor of spirit) of any value, any quality or characteristic one might even begin to imagine. We fall so far short of His holiness that it knocks the props right out from under any idea we might have to take pride in what we are.
If we are striving to be like Him, to walk in His steps, to be in His image, this comparison gives us a much more realistic foundation to work from in relating both to Him and to fellow man. It is a wonderful attitude adjuster and regulator of relationships.
Humility tends to be the flipside of faith, because where the confident—the faithful, the trusting—will push themselves forward, the humble has a tendency to hesitate. It is a matter of restraint.
In the humble, there is a consciousness of emptiness, of potential weakness, of helplessness, of worthlessness. However, we should never get the idea that the humble are weak. Paradoxically, they are among the strongest of all people on earth! It all depends on one's perspective. In God's perspective, these people are strong, while from a human perspective, it depends on whom they want to impress.
Humility is so important that God gave Paul some help to make sure that he would stay humble (II Corinthians 12:6-10). Yet, if we would evaluate that, from the time of Jesus on, no one was more spiritually powerful than Paul. It all depends on one's perspective. Who is the humble person being compared with? In comparison with other men, Paul did not appear very strong, but when God looked at him, He liked what He saw—a powerful, effective servant of God.
This is so important because humility's dominant thrust is its willingness to submit to God and to what is right and true. Some, of course, would submit willingly to death if it would glorify God. Our level of humility, therefore, pretty much sets the tone of our relationship with Him and with others. In both cases, that is, with God and man, the humble esteem the other better than themselves. This quality will guard the unity of the spirit (Ephesians 4:3).
Humility or lowliness goes hand-in-glove with meekness. Meekness is a rather complex subject requiring many items to describe it accurately. However, it contains an evident element of restraint. The meek are kind, gentle, and sensitive to others needs. They are thoughtful, agreeable people. They are not aggressive, assertive, insistent, or argumentative. They are easily approached and easy to get along with. Again, we should not be mistaken: The meek are not weak. Certainly, we would not classify Jesus and Moses as being weak, but meek they were. They were firm and uncompromising regarding following truth, but they did not feel constrained to overwhelm those who were aligned against them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)
By the grace of God, we have been given a rare and wonderful opportunity to rise above the rest of humanity. We are now heirs of God, possessors of the hope of eternal life and of the knowledge of God's purpose. We are, as Jesus said, to be lights shining in the darkness of this evil age. So, Paul says, it is our responsibility as God's children in this world to fight the evil human nature within us and instead to display the nature of God in all of our actions—toward the world and toward one another—as we prepare for our ultimate work in His Kingdom.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are Humans Good or Evil?
The ISV renders the Greek word praiotes as “courtesy,” while other versions translate it as “meekness,” “gentleness” or “humility.” The ISV has taken some liberties, but it gives a sense, in today's English, of what Paul is saying. A humble attitude is necessary to show courtesy to others.
So, if the English “courtesy” is not literally in Titus 3:2, is it elsewhere? The Greek word philophron, which translates directly to the English “courtesy,” is used only once in the Bible. It comes from two other Greek words, philos, meaning “friend,” and phren, meaning “understanding,” “perceiving,” and “judging.” These two words indicating “understanding a friend” are put together to suggest the idea of courtesy.
Philophron appears in I Peter 3:8: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one for another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (King James Version). Many translations interpret philophron as “kind” or “humble,” and this is correct as well. Both Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Strong's Concordance define philophron as “friendly” and “kind,” but Strong's goes a little further, saying it can be summed up as the English word “courteous.”
The Phillips translation renders these two verses as:
Remind your people to recognize the power of those who rule and bear authority. They must obey them and be prepared to render whatever good service they can. They are not to speak evil of any man, they must not be quarrelsome but reasonable, showing every consideration to all men.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)
We should have a meek attitude to all others regardless of our relationship with them. Even when someone is antagonistic, meek correction and teaching will assist God in leading them to repentance. For prautes, the NKJV uses "gentleness" in Galatians and "humility" in II Timothy and Titus. Both of these are qualities of meekness. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It is evenness of mind—neither elated nor cast down—because a truly meek person is not occupied with self at all.
Martin G. Collins
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Titus 3:1: