Article: Proud Humility | Jacob Varghese
I recently started hearing the usage of “proud humility” a lot. The key difference between pride and humility is that pride refers to having an excessively high view of one’s importance whereas humility refers to having a modest or low view of one’s importance. A proud person always considers himself superior to others whereas a humble person doesn’t. Then I started thinking about it. Can one be humble and proud of it? Are you humble? This is a very catchy question. To answer in the negative is to admit that we are not humble. To answer “yes” is to reveal that we have a somewhat high opinion of ourselves and therefore are not really humble. It got me thinking, am I humble? What is humility anyway? Romans 12:3 says “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Based on this verse my answer, for some time now, is that humility is having accurate knowledge of oneself.
Once I heard about a student doing theological studies preaching his trial sermon at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied and later at the evaluation of the sermon, the professor stood up, and paused for a moment before responding. He said, “that was a powerful sermon, it was well organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject matter of even a single one of your sentences.”
The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times. We all talk as if we are the prime highlight- what we do and what we say. In truth, God must be the prime emphasis of our sermon. I have seen preachers and leaders are way too self-referencing in public about what should be kept in private. I have been so uncomfortable with it. Proud pastors and preachers tend to talk a lot more about themselves than glorifying the Lord. They are better at putting the spotlight on themselves than they are shining the light of their stories and opinion on God’s glorious and utterly undeserved grace on them. We must always challenge ourselves to see if our heart is faithful to God. If we are not careful, we can hastily assume that we are doing what is right when we are really ignoring God’s will. We often profess that God is somehow generally “in charge”, but we act as if all the outcomes depend on us. The scripture insists that God be the true subject matter of our lives and all our acts of faith must be done in the name of the Lord, in His power.
I know a Christian leader who even in the midst of his sermons, takes time to talk about his children’s multiple PhDs and their worldly success and so on, but it leads us to understand his pride. Once I remember hearing a leader speaking that I do not have any pride in anything and if I take any pride, that is about my humility. Look at these people, they want to even take pride in their humility. You may have heard the classic joke, “He won a badge for humility, but they took it away because he wore it.” The Bible tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves”. One thing that I long for in my long-time involvement with Christian ministry is to be free from the endless battles with the flesh
and to be free from the desire to please others. And there is always a temptation to steal God’s glory through self-glorification.
Pride is like cholesterol – there is the good kind and the bad kind. We know “Pride goes before destruction” and yet we want to take pride in our preaching, in our ministry engagements, and be proud of our family and loved ones to self-promote our success in life. The world says “glorify yourself, and you will be satisfied and happy!’ Even as believers, this deception is always lurking on our doorstep. In fact, we need to understand that we were once dead and now alive because Christ alone saved us when we could not save ourselves.
The glory of a man is temporary, but the glory of God is eternal. When we feel drawn towards the immediate gratification of our own glory, let us understand the promise of sharing eternal glory with Christ. We know that Jesus humbled himself, even to the point of death on the cross. We know that the whole Bible teaches us to humble ourselves. We know that no one human being is of greater value than any other and that Jesus reversed the values of our human world system, by teaching us that leaders are servants and that the greatest is the least. Humility is less an attitude and more an action. Of course, seeing ourselves as no greater than anyone else is important. But humility is learned by humbling ourselves and giving and serving others.
Let me conclude here with this story I heard once. Two men died and were waiting in line for admission to heaven. Saint Peter said, “We have got room for only one more, which one of you is more humble may get in?”. I guess a truly humble person will always be thrown for a loop when you ask him or her if he or she is humble. They will find it hard to answer because they are not thinking about themselves. They are thinking about God and about others. James 4:6 tells us that “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” I think we all need to take this humility matter more seriously. Let us decide for ourselves!