"For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3).
I passed a church the other day with a sign out front that read: "Lord, make me humble." I thought about that for the next mile. What person, I wondered, would ask God to make them humble? Sure, He ought to make our boss humble, our spouse humble, and our brother-in-law humble. But, I daresay very few of us pray the Lord would do that little number on us.
Now, I don't claim to know much about humility and if you think you do, it's not a good sign. But Scripture has much to say on the subject. Basically, what the Word says is we should humble ourselves, rather than ask God to do it (see Matt. 18:4, James 4:10 and 1 Pet. 5:5). There is a good reason for this.
When God humbles a person, He does it with a heavy hand. Anyone doubting this may want to see how the Almighty brought King Nebuchadnezzar low (that's chapter 4 of Daniel). Not a pretty thing. I mean, the man was grazing with the cows! Or Herod Agrippa in Acts 12.
I don't think you want to be asking the Lord to make you humble, my friend.
We have various promises on this subject. Humble yourself as a child and you will be great in the Kingdom (Matt. 18:4), the Lord will exalt you (James 4:10), and He will give you grace (1 Pet. 5:5).
On the other hand, exalt yourself-promote yourself, love yourself supremely, and seek advancement just for you-and two things will occur: your pride will bring you low (Prov. 29:23) and God will be opposed to you (1 Pet. 5:5).
Two additional verses in Romans 12 elaborate on our text-"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (12:10). "Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation" (12:16).
Finally, there is Philippians 3:3, a real keeper on this subject. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. But with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself." Now, there is your standard of humility-considering others more important than you do yourself! Let's see you try that one for a few days, friend.
If we are honest, we will admit we have a long way to go to even begin to meet that standard.
Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.