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What the Bible says about Living by Faith and Humility
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 22:7

To be obsequious is to be perceived as excessively obedient, servile, or even groveling, as illustrated in Proverbs 22:7. The borrower has put himself or has been put into a position of dependence upon the whims or good graces of the lender, so he must bend his will to the one with the power. Liberties that he formerly had are lost. He cannot act as he pleases. He now feels obligated and constrained to a degree that he was not before.

As his outlook on life narrows, the borrower makes sure he treats the lender with deference. He certainly does not want to ruffle the lender's feathers, as he wants to be able to retain what he still has left of his former dignity. Thus, as his circumstance diminishes, the borrower almost automatically becomes beggarly to some degree, perhaps even fawning in his mannerisms. In most cases, there is a loss of enthusiasm and confidence about life. Being humbled changes the way a person approaches life.

Thus, the manner in which the Old Testament illustrates humility provides a mental picture of what the term means to a Christian's approach to life. This is good. However, we must understand that the Old Testament in no way considers humility as weakness or bad. It just does not emphasize or portray it as the New Testament does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

Isaiah 66:1-2

It is not at all unusual for men to desire and build beautiful and costly edifices to honor God and to worship within them. However, God makes clear that He prefers to be revered and communed with within the hearts of men. This gets His positive attention, motivating Him to respond in loving kindness. When this occurs, it cannot be anything but good for those who humbly seek Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

Micah 6:6-8

Notice carefully the comparisons Micah uses to illustrate the value of humility in God's eyes, especially the ascending value of each illustration. Calves for sacrifices are in the plural, indicating more than one sacrifice at a time when even one calf would have been an offering of considerable monetary value. A thousand rams might be what a king would offer. Obviously, so many rams are a very valuable gift, but we should already be asking ourselves, "Is this the right way to impress God?" Ten thousand rivers of olive oil would equal the value of the offerings of many kings of many nations. Does that meet the standard God sets? One's own firstborn is without doubt the most precious gift of all. Yet, again, the implication is that this is not what God wants.

What follows is one of the truly great statements in the entire Bible. Micah names three great acts of love for God and fellow man that pave the way for a good relationship with Him: 1) To be righteous and absolutely fair to all regardless of their status in life. 2) To show kindness freely and willingly to others. 3) To live humbly in conscious fellowship of the greatness and sovereignty of God. These three actions will work to glorify God so that He enables those acting thus to neutralize their pride.

Our service to God should not be given to Him with the primary purpose to "get" things selfishly from Him. Our purpose should always be to honor and glorify Him through what He is doing in our lives. Nevertheless, God is most certainly not against providing us with wonderful gifts as we humbly submit to Him with pure motives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

John 3:25-30

For a person to be humble, he has to understand and fully accept the realization that came from John's innermost being. If he does not, pride will arise and muzzle humility by means of a character weakness. Here, John's disciples feel a measure of jealousy because more people were being attracted to Jesus, and the number of John's disciples was dwindling. John's reply to them is one of wisdom. He understands that God assigns a place in the outworking of His purpose to everyone He calls. John knows and accepts that he had no right to lay claim to an honor that had not been given to him from heaven. Instead of envying Jesus' success, John rejoices that both men's purposes were being fulfilled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

John 5:18-19

In John 5:18-19, 30, Jesus immediately knocks down the claim that He had elevated Himself as equal to God by showing His dependence on God. Though He later claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), that oneness does not include absolute equality. Rather, He is showing that because of Their oneness, there is perfect communication between Them, with the Father leading the way by showing Him what to do. Jesus humbly claims no absolute equality with the Father but dependence, despite His doing fantastic things like walking on water, healing, and resurrecting a number of people. John 8:26-28 confirms His dependence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

John 14:8-10

Commentators believe Phillip is requesting a theophany, a literal vision of the Father. Jesus refuses with a gentle rebuke, confirming once again His oneness with the Father, and that if one has seen the Son, he has seen spiritual character exactly as if he had seen the Father. His humility again comes to the fore in His claim that He does not speak on His own authority and that His Father does the works. As a human being, Jesus had absolutely no evil pride coursing through Him or interfering with His thoughts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility

Colossians 3:12

How does the New Testament present humility? According to commentator William Barclay, the classical Greek language did not even have a word for humility that included no sense of shame. The root of the word the apostles used literally means "to depress," a very expressive word. To the Greeks, humility indicated servility and slavishness. This may have been because Greeks looked down upon anyone who acted in humility as not being an upstanding person of good character. Culturally, it was evil, shameful behavior, as to them it exhibited someone untrustworthy. At best, they would consider the person to be a wimp because they admired people who aggressively took charge, commanding others about.

The Christian approach is entirely different. We will consider a few scriptures that give a description of the way humility enhances one's character.

Psalm 113:4-7: "For He is high above the nations; His glory is far greater than the heavens. Who can be compared with God enthroned on high? Far below Him are heavens and the earth; He stoops to look, and lifts the poor from the dirt" (The Living Bible).

Psalm 138:6: "Yet though He is so great, He respects the humble, but proud men must keep their distance" (The Living Bible).

Both of these psalms picture God as being of awesome power, but He holds His power in check to achieve a greater good. Rather than destroy through imperious self-centeredness, He pities and builds with gentle, understanding kindness.

Matthew 20:25-28 shows New Covenant leadership: "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'"

Matthew 11:29 makes Jesus' insistence on humility exceedingly clear: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Matthew 11:29 is a direct command from the same God described in Psalms, though here He is acting as a Man. His example and commands regarding this continues to be the way Christians are to follow.

Humility is not a weak, cringing approach to life. It is not a denial of power but the deliberate controlling of power to accomplish a greater good. It comes into proper use when a converted person deliberately utilizes a servant approach rather than a natural, proud, and carnal human-ruler approach. It is the attitude that best promotes good relationships because it neutralizes pride and the damage it can wreak. At the very least, it indicates modesty that grows from a genuine self-evaluation that concludes in the person deeming himself worthless in relation to God and His truth.

It is important that we understand self-evaluation better. In the Christian sense of humility, the person is not deeming himself worthless because he sees himself as a vile creature full of sin—though to some degree this is true in comparison to God—but because he is merely a creature, absolutely dependent upon God even for every breath of air. Further, he views himself as possessing nothing intrinsically good, having to receive all good, spiritual things from God as well. Even Jesus had this attitude, and He is our model.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 




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