God has filled the Scriptures with glorious promises for the humble. He promises to “give grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5), to lift up the humble (1 Peter 5:6), to hear the prayers of the humble (2 Chronicles 7:14), to lead and guide the humble (Psalms 25:9), and to “adorn the humble with salvation” (Psalms 149:4). In light of such promises, every Christian should be prayerfully and passionately pursuing humility.
Yet we must be careful.
We must be careful because sometimes what we define as “humility” is anything but humility. Thankfully, 1 Peter 4:10-11 provides three key insights that help guard us from a false understanding of what humility is.
@@We must be careful because sometimes what we define as “humility” is anything but humility.@@
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
1. True Humility Recognizes Its Gifts
The Apostle Peter writes, “each of you should use whatever gift…” It is impossible to obey this command unless we acknowledge that we have certain gifts and talents. Yet oftentimes we make the error of thinking that humility is found in acting as if we have nothing to offer. Convincing ourselves or others that “we have nothing special” may look like humility, but it is not humility. To the contrary, it is arrogant to deny the gifts God has graciously given to us.
Because to live as if we are less gifted than we are is to deny God the glory he deserves for gifting us as he has. It also means we cannot obey the command of 1 Peter 4:10, and disobedience is always rooted in pride rather than humility.
2. True Humility Recognizes the Source of Its Gifts
Some people have no problem recognizing their gifts. They are very aware – and want you to be very aware – of their special gifts and talents. Yet that does not mean they are humble. It is not enough for us to merely recognize our gifts, we must also recognize the source of our gifts.
Peter writes, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received,” (revealing that your gifts did not come from you), “as faithful stewards of God’s grace” (revealing that your gifts did come from God). The arrogant person knows they’re gifted but takes credit for their gifts. The humble person knows they’re gifted but credits God as the source of their gifts.
3. True Humility Uses Its Gifts to Draw Attention to the Giver of the Gift
Though the first two elements above are necessary for true humility they are not sufficient for true humility. One can recognize their gifts and acknowledge God as the source of their gifts while still having an enormously arrogant heart (just watch a televised award show for examples). This is because true humility requires both of the first two elements as well as a third.
After urging Christians to acknowlege their gifts and the source of their gifts the Apostle Peter tells Christians to use those gifts. Yet he is not content with those gifts being used for any and every purpose. He has a very specific purpose in mind, “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
@@Only those who are motivated by Jesus’ glory rather than their own are truly humble.@@
The arrogant person will use his gifts to draw attention and praise to himself. The humble person will use her gifts to draw attention and praise to Jesus. To the outside observer the two people may appear to be doing the same thing in the same way, but their inner motives are not hidden from God’s sight. Only those who are motivated by Jesus’ glory rather than their own are truly humble. And only those who are truly humble can claim the promises listed in the first paragraph of this post.
Is that you?
How have you been gifted?
Who do you credit as the source of your gifts and talents?
How do you use your gifts and talents and for whose honor?
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.