Humility is an accurate understanding of our worth and value as broken people unable to save ourselves, yet so loved that Christ gave up everything to make us cherished children of God.
We are in week three in our study of a famous verse penned by the Old Testament prophet Micah, most specifically his challenge to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. And though our focus today is “walk humbly”, it’s important for us to remember his charge is more like a three-legged stool that shapes our overall posture, rather than three separate exercises we check off as we try to get stronger faith.
You can’t truly love mercy without the presence or pressure of justice. Justice without humility or mercy is the stuff that leads to personal vendettas and revenge missions. Humility without the love of God’s mercy toward us breeds self-deprecation, and a love of mercy without action toward justice is like a pretty picture with a catchy quote sitting on a shelf in a house up in flames–unhelpful and honestly just fuel for the fire.
The three together reveal the goal, or better yet the person, everything always comes back to – Jesus. So what specifically does this third leg of the stool add?
I’m sure you’ve heard C.S. Lewis’ famous definition of humility as not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Being a person of humility does not mean you become a doormat. It doesn’t bring about insecurity. It’s resting on the fact that we no longer have to fight for our spot. We don’t have to prove our worth, or significance, or usefulness. Because at its core, humility is a perspective shift that “it’s not about us”–and even more that this shift is a good and freeing thing! Humility is an accurate understanding of our worth and value as broken people unable to save ourselves, yet so loved that Christ gave up everything to make us cherished children of God.
The battle with humility for me often looks a lot like James and John in Mark 10. Me coming to Jesus saying, “I want you to do this for me.” And his response being, “you don’t know what you are asking.” For James and John, the request revolves mostly around significance, honor, and recognition, where my conversations usually take on the tone of “change this,” “fix this” or “give me this.” Yet lying at the core of both requests is a singular notion: “What I desire is what is best.”
Yet God, holding all wisdom and understanding, and being the very creator of we who ask, knows that this notion is destructive. If we are allowed to remain at the center of our own universe, with our egos unchecked and our broken desires unquenched, we spiral deeper and deeper into despair and will drag everyone in our path along with us.
Humility is trusting that Jesus actually knows best. And when we allow that notion to replace the previous of “what I desire is best,” we are actually welcomed into a world with far less pressure and upkeep and fear. What’s even more refreshing to me is that the prophet Micah doesn’t just command us to be humble, he says that we are to walk humbly with our God.
Walk – not run. Not race others. Not stop, learn how to be humble, and then go off on a solo mission to blaze uncharted trails. Walk with your God. Walk alongside him, with him setting the pace, with him at the center and us at his side. With his Spirit helping us to deepen our love for God’s mercy and empowering us to take action for justice, all in light of our understanding of our rightful place–walking next to the One who rightfully reigns at the center of everything.