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Humble Beginnings

“I can’t find a bowl. I wonder where she keeps them?”

We were enjoying the generosity of one of our members who had insisted we take their private cabin for the weekend. An unfamiliar kitchen had me searching for utensils and bowls to prepare our dinner. And then I opened a cupboard to the sight of stacks of empty margarine containers and bags of used twist ties.

Dear Ruby was a very wealthy woman. At the same time she was humble in her displays of wealth. This cupboard full of plastic tubs was a window into her past, one that most certainly involved days of want. But it was also a window into the heart of this lovely, gentle-spoken woman.

I enjoy TV programs about the upper class of days gone by. It’s the conversations among the servants that I really like. Even though they all humble themselves before their employers, some privately bristle at being under someone’s thumb. Even in the servant quarters there’s a hierarchy, and woe to that lowly servant who tries to puff up his importance amongst his peers.

Humble is more than just a position in life. It’s an attitude as well. People who are truly humble are modest in their own importance. They are self-effacing, unassuming, respectful of others. Respectful. I like that! Everyone can be respectful, no matter how important one’s position.

On the other hand, there are people who refuse to be humble or humbled. They strike back in indignation and accusations. In time, the world will humble these people. The Lord certainly has humbled many.

Consider His reaction to the arrogance of the Israelites and their demands: Miriam paid the price with temporary leprosy (Numbers 12). Psalm 107 talks about the numerous times God had to rescue His people after they had been humbled (v. 39). Isaiah reminds the people that “the arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled” (2:17).

But isn’t it wonderful to be in the presence of someone who displays true humility, someone who recognizes his or her humble state? Scripture talks about two such individuals.

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Here was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen, and yet he considered himself unworthy of the position. No wonder God had such a close relationship with him!

Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, humbled herself before the Lord God Almighty, recognizing her need for a Savior (Luke 1:48). Although she realized generations to come would call her blessed, she knew the source of that blessing was her Lord, the One who should be exalted.

And then there’s Jesus.

We always hear and read about how He humbled Himself to die on the cross (Philippians 2). But that humility actually began years before. The Son of God, the one who had everything going for Himself in heaven, became a human… a baby even… born to a mother who displayed her own humility.Jesus adds another meaning to humble. He became submissive. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) He suffered that physical humiliation, the indignity of crucifixion. But He also became our sin. As God Himself, He was submissive to His Father: “Not my will, but Yours” (Luke 22:42).

When we humble ourselves, we recognize our unworthiness for a task or responsibility. We also recognize our need for God’s mercy… submitting to His Lordship. As Christian leaders this should be a way of life. Learning to be humble. Following the lead of Jesus.

With the example of Jesus always before us we are encouraged, even admonished, over and over again to humble ourselves (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 4:2; James 4:10; 1 Peter 3:8, 5:5-6). Remembering to never hold ourselves above others.

And this isn’t a sign of weakness! On the contrary, the Scriptures are full of benefits to being humble: God will hear us, forgive us and heal us (2 Chronicles 7:14; 34:27). He will teach and guide us (Psalm 25:9; Matthew 11:29). He will show us His favor (Proverbs 3:34; Isaiah 66:2).

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Maybe this won’t happen here on this earth, but the promise is true that we will be exalted. Oh, it’s not because of anything we’ve done, but totally and completely because of what our Lord Jesus has done for us.

The Lord Jesus loves the humble leader. He knows we benefit from humbling ourselves before others… when we admit we make mistakes… when we ask for help and guidance… when we truly seek solutions and not insist on our own positions and ideas.

Because as Christian leaders, we recognize where we came from, unlovable in God’s eyes, unworthy of God’s grace. We are all from humble beginnings regardless of our social or economic standing: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Only as truly humble people do we recognize our lack, our poverty, our lowliness, our need to be led, guided, taught.

This humbling experience takes place before my Lord Jesus. When I take stock of my life, admitting I make mistakes, asking for His help and guidance, I learn from Him what the ultimate solution is... His mercy and forgiveness. 

“I come to the cross seeking mercy and grace,

I come to the cross where You died in my place.

Out of my weakness and into Your strength,

Humbly, I come to the cross.” 

Only in true humility is the understanding clear of what Christ did to save my soul. And only in true humility do I experience His joy!

Leaving my guilt at the cross,


(First published at Lead Like Jesus April 2019)


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