The story is told that when Nelson Mandela met the Queen Mother for the very first time, he threw himself down at her feet with his head bowed to the carpet. He neither spoke nor moved and the situation remained unchanged for a full two minutes. It was the Queen Mother herself who ended this display of humility by very gently taking his hand and in a manner only she could do, said “Come on, let’s go and have a cup of tea together.”
One of the greatest lessons every Christian needs to learn, is humility before the Lord, (as well of course as humility towards each other). If Mandela felt humble and awestruck before the Queen Mother and the office she represented, then how much more so should a Christian be humble before their Lord and Maker?
The subject of humility before God is frequently mentioned in Scripture and is regarded as a sign of being a true Christian. In Colossians Ch3vs12-13 it commands “Put on tender mercies, kindness and humbleness of mind…” and in Philippians Ch2vs 5-11 it states “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a servant…He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross..”
In James Ch3v13 it asks “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by deeds done in the humility which comes from wisdom and understanding.” Humility and wisdom or understanding is closely linked because humility is actually a sign of having understanding. It comes by having an understanding (and acknowledgment) of how things really are; namely that God is God and that as created beings we are totally dependent upon Him for our very existence, for the continuation of this existence and for our Salvation which was bought at such a great Price. Humbleness of heart comes as a result of perceiving these truths; it is but a recognition and acceptance of reality. Pride on the other hand, displays an ignorance or rejection of these obvious truths, fancifully thinking that a created being can some how exist without his Maker. Pride is a sign of a thoughtless and foolish person who denies reality and it warns in Proverbs Ch16v5 that “those who are proud in heart are an abomination to the Lord.”
One of the greatest failings of many Christians in the Twenty-First Century is that they have a tendency to approach and regard God in a casual, almost irreverent manner, displaying a profound lack of humility. This can be seen in a variety of ways such as in their prayer life, their worship, their attitude to sin, and in their casual obedience to His Commandments. The underlying attitude towards the Almighty is often one of “My pal Jesus” or “My pal God”. Scripture teaches that the Lord is indeed our Best Friend and Loving Companion but at the same time, He is also our King and Holiness Personified. With this in mind we need to approach and regard Him with the utmost reverence and humility. In Isaiah Ch6 we are told that the angels in Heaven use their wings to veil their faces in awe and respect of God. This being the case, how much more so should we mortals approach the Almighty in a reverent and humble manner!
When we pray, do we remember in our hearts that we are approaching the King and Judge of the Universe? When we are sitting in church before a service begins, do we take time to quietly prepare our hearts for worship, or do we use this time to chat with friends? Again, when we go forward to take Holy Communion do we take it in the right spirit, namely, “That we are not worthy to eat the crumbs from under Thy table” or do we take it almost as a right, as though God had to provide for us?
At Beethoven’s house in Bonn the piano used by the great master has been preserved for future generations. Year’s ago an American girl visiting the house, airily went up to the instrument and began playing a careless tune. Turning to the startled custodian she asked, “I suppose you have many visitors here every year?” “A great many,” was the curt reply. “Many famous people no doubt?” she inquired. “Yes Paderewski came recently.” “I suppose, he played on the piano?” asked the girl, still thrumming the keys. “Actually no” said the custodian firmly, “he did not consider himself worthy to play it.”
Sadly many Christians regard the Lord in the same casual manner that this girl treated Beethoven’s piano. This lack of humility and reverence leads to spiritual poverty. They casually say within their hearts “I will have my prayer time tomorrow rather than today; God won’t mind.” Or they think “I went to church last week so I will take next Sunday off; God won’t mind.” Then again, disobedience to God’s law often gets trivialised and regarded lightly by falsely thinking; “breaking such and such a Commandment is only a tiny little sin; God won’t mind, He will still love me.” They ignore the fact that sin is so profoundly serious it took the Agony of the Cross to offer Salvation.
Such people often talk about “their rights” but God has rights too! The right to be worshipped properly in spirit and in truth, the right to be approached in humbleness of heart, the right for His Commandments to be obeyed, and the right to state what conduct is sinful in His sight. It is His universe which He not only created but also suffered for and redeemed at the Cost of the Cross. Set in this context a “casual spiritual life” with a “casual attitude” towards His Commandments is but a sinful one. God deserves infinitely better. In Proverbs Ch30v12 it says that “there is a generation which is pure in its own eyes yet it has not been washed from its filthiness.” Those who treat Almighty God and His will in this casual and disrespectful manner fall into this category.
How different is the attitude shown by Godly people in Scripture. The writers of Job Ch28v28, Psalm111v10 and Proverbs Ch1v7 all state “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and in 1st Samuel Ch6v20 people ask “Who is able to stand before this Holy God?” St Paul urges Christians to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians Ch2v12) and in Proverbs Ch22v4 it says “By humility and the fear of the Lord …is life”. True spirituality and humility goes together. You can’t have one without the other.
Our approach to the Lord should be similar in spirit to that of the humble tax collector described in Luke Ch18 vs9-14. In this story Jesus illustrates two different approaches to God. The Pharisee came before the Lord in a spirit of pride. He prayed “Thank You God that I am not like other men- extortionists, adulterers, unjust…” The tax collector however, approached the Lord in a spirit of humility and “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’.” Jesus ended the account by saying “I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The story is told that in the Middle Ages a certain lord of the manor lay seriously ill. He was anxious about his spiritual state so he asked his loyal servant for advice; “What do I have to do to get into heaven?” The servant replied “Go to the pigsty, get down on your knees and humbly plead before the Lord ‘Be merciful to me a sinner.’” The lord of the manor was shocked and said “I can’t do that, I am a man of wealth and position. I am the lord of the manor.” When the man’s sickness got even worse he called for his servant again and asked “What was it you said I must do?” The servant replied, “You must go to the pigsty, get on your knees and pray ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’” “Well” said the lord of the manor, “if that is what I must do, I will do it.” The servant, greatly relieved by his change of heart went on to explain, “Sir you don’t literally have to go to the pigsty, what I mean is this; forget that you are the lord of the manor, it doesn’t impress God. Instead, humbly acknowledge that you are a sinner, repent of your sins and acknowledge that He is now the Lord of your life. Come before Him in a spirit of humility and He will hear your pleas for forgiveness.”
In Micah Ch6v8 it says “What does the Lord require of you? You are to behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” Let us be humble in heart before the Lord of life; it is the only way to experience the joy of having His close Friendship and Fellowship.
humility which comes from wisdom and understanding.” Humility and wisdom or understanding is closely linked because humility is actually a sign of having understanding. It comes by having an understanding (and acknowledgment) of how things really are; namely that God is God and that as created beings we are totally dependent upon Him for our very existence, for the continuation of this existence and for our Salvation which was bought at such a great Price. Humbleness of heart comes as a result of perceiving these truths; it is but a recognition and acceptance of reality. Pride on the other hand, displays an ignorance or rejection of these obvious truths, fancifully thinking that a created being can some how exist without his Maker. Pride is a sign of a thoughtless and foolish person who denies reality and it warns in Proverbs Ch16v5 that “those who are proud in heart are an abomination to the Lord.”