By David Faust
Years ago my high school guidance counselor urged me to speak up for myself. He said, “If you don’t toot your own horn, your horn will never be tooted.” However, someone far wiser advised, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
Popular culture coaxes, “Put yourself first,” but Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Self-interest urges, “Push yourself forward,” but Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5). Self-centeredness demands, “My way or the highway,” but a repentant heart prays, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Egotism insists, “I want recognition,” but faith humbly acknowledges, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Humility isn’t a sign of weakness. Someone has said, “If you think it’s weak to be meek, try being meek for a week!” It takes strength and self-awareness to admit our weaknesses and limitations. C. S. Lewis observed, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
A Big Head, or a Humble Heart?
In the early chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all four Gospels tell about the ministry of John the Baptist, but then John fades from the picture and the spotlight shifts to Jesus. Large crowds came to hear John preach, and so many were baptized that he had to find a wide place in the Jordan River where “there was plenty of water” (John 3:23). “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him” (Mark 1:5).
Such notoriety could feed a man’s ego. Disciples loyal to John worried because Jesus was gaining popularity and overshadowing their hero. They said, “Look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him” (John 3:26). But instead of becoming jealous and defensive, John reminded them that he himself wasn’t the Messiah; he was the forerunner preparing the way for the Lord. His goal wasn’t making a name for himself, but pointing others to Jesus. He compared himself to a best man who finds joy at the wedding of his friend, the groom.
John said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less” (3:30).
A Lifelong Quest
Scottish author James M. Barrie said, “Life is a long lesson in humility.” Barrie knew what he was talking about. He created the famous story Peter Pan, but as a child he grieved the accidental death of his brother, and as an adult he experienced a failed marriage. His writing immortalized him, but life humbled him.
Humility? It’s the proud Pharisee Nicodemus coming to grips with the reality that he must be born again—”born of water and the Spirit”—to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-15). It’s the Samaritan woman who had been married five times realizing that Jesus knew her past, loved her in the present, and had a meaningful role for her in the future (4:1-42).
Humility? It’s a once-strong man who suffered a stroke yielding to the instructions of his young physical therapist. It’s an aging woman who, instead of growing bitter and withdrawn, cheerfully encourages her younger friends. It’s a veteran quarterback mentoring the rookie who eventually will take his place. It’s the former boss supporting others who are now in charge.
Humility? It’s refusing to care whether anyone toots your horn or not. It’s a lifelong quest to honor the Lord and say, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
1. In your circle of friends, whom do you consider a model of genuine humility?
2. What circumstances right now are challenging you to exercise humility?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for October 13, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Jeremiah 14, 15
Jeremiah 30, 31