Humility Week: (Moses)

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)” (Numbers 12:3)

We’re digging into the big idea of humility this week and starting with a verse so humble the whole thing is in parenthesis. It is an aside to let us know, apparently, why Moses wasn’t defending himself when his siblings were disrespecting him.

humility_350And while Moses didn’t feel the need to stick up for himself, God did. He zapped Miriam with leprosy for a week for smack-talking against Moses’ God-given authority.

It’s hard to imagine a trophy for the “World’s Most Humble Guy.” It feels better to tuck it in-between a couple of modest punctuation marks. We don’t tend to give out awards for humility, but we do respect humble people – especially humble leaders.

And as we’ll see this week, you cannot be the person God intends you to be without humility. You can’t be wise. You can’t be like Jesus. And you won’t be on the waiting list to be “lifted up” by God. We need humility. Come back tomorrow.

Think: Before we dig in this week, think about how you would define the worlds “pride” and “humility.” Can pride be good? Can you be too humble? What does humility cost?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be great at being humble in a way that pleases him.

Do: Read Numbers 12:1-16 to get the whole story about how and why God exalted humble Moses when he was getting dissed by Aaron and Miriam.

Humility Week: Compared to Who?

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3)

The word humility means different things to different people. It’s easy to think of it as a kind of performance, being careful never to do anything that “sounds” proud or arrogant or stuck up. And it’s true that bragging and smugness aren’t exactly humble. But God cares a lot more about what’s going on in our hearts than on the stage of our external lives.

humility_350Others think of humility as a kind of self-hatred. “I’m so stupid. I’m so ugly. I’m such a jerk.” But that’s not true humility, either. That’s just name-calling, and it is just as self-focused as pride and boasting.

No, humility is best understood as a comparison, but not of our ourselves to others. True humility is found when we compare ourselves to God. Why God? Because he’s the only standard for what is truly good, truly powerful, truly holy, truly intelligent.

Humility is the ability to look at God and myself and realize how deeply sinful I am in comparison to his pure holiness; how fragile in comparison to his limitless power; how short-lived in comparison to his eternal existence; how foolish in comparison to his absolutely perfect understanding the universe. Humility gets that I am nothing apart from him and have everything in relationship with him.

Think: Why does it not make sense to base our view of ourselves on comparisons with other people? If we base our view of ourselves on a comparison to God, how would we most naturally think about ourselves? How would we think about him?

Pray: Ask God to help you to not think of yourself more highly than you should, but to think of yourself with an honest, serious judgment.

Do: Make a quick list of a few of the most humble people you know personally. Think about asking one of them why they seem so humble.

Humility Week: How?

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

A few days into humility week, you might be thinking that you’d like to be a more humble person, but how do you do it? It’s not enough to just grit your teeth and focus and say, “I’m being humble now.”

humility_350Nope, humble is as humble does. We find clues about how to live humble in today’s verses. These famous words capture God’s promise to Israel after the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. God promised to fix what he broke in Israel when his people chose to “humble themselves.”

In this case, that involved three specific things:

A) “Pray:” To ask God for something is an admission that we cannot do it ourselves; that’s humility.

B) “Seek my face:” We can find what God shows us of himself in his Word, the Bible, but it takes time, effort, and energy to dive in there and look for it; that sacrifice of seeking for him requires humility.

C) “Turn from their wicked ways:” It’s not enough to just agree that our sin is wrong; we demonstrate our humble belief that God is right when we stop doing it.

Think: By this description, are you living a humble life? In other words, do you regularly pray, seek God’s face, and turn away from doing wrong things?

Pray: Ask God to help you demonstrate your humility before him by praying regularly, seeking his face, and turning away from sin.

Do: Write a note to yourself and leave it somewhere you’ll see it. Tell yourself, “Humility = Prayer + Seeking God + Turning from Sin.”

Humility Week: Be the Student

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:9)

I remember my son teaching me how to play chess when he was 3 or 4. He didn’t really know anything about chess, of course, but he had learned something about people: Teachers get all the attention. Teachers are smart. The one who knows how to do something has more status – more props, more power – than the one who is learning how to do it.

humility_350So he taught me how to play chess, which mostly involved knocking down all of my pieces in a series of violent air raids. We had fun, but neither of us learned anything about chess that day. He wasn’t humble enough, yet, to start learning how to play that game. Sometimes I’m not humble enough to learn new things from God, either, especially hard things I think I should already know.

You don’t learn anything by having all of the answers. You only learn when you’re the student – and that takes humility. That means taking off my “expert” hat and putting on my “trainee” cap.

God is ready to teach us his way. We’ve got to demote ourselves to the lifelong status of newbie before we can learn it, but he exalts the humble when the time is right. Are you ready to be his student?

Think: How hard is it for you to stop giving answers and start asking questions? Why does it take humility to learn anything new? Do you think God teaches us truth through other people, even people we don’t want to learn from?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be humble so you can be guided in what is right and learn his way.

Do: If you get a chance to see some little kids in action this week, notice how much more important it is for them to demonstrate what they know than to learn what they don’t know. Then notice when you do it, too.

Humility Week: God Mocks

“He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

So why would anyone not be humble? After talking about all of the benefits of humility this week, we might start wondering why it’s so unusual for us to choose a humble attitude. Here’s one reason: We’re all cowards.

humility_350Seriously. We’re afraid that we’re worthless, weak, dumb, or ugly. We’re terrified of being unloved nobodies. We can’t think of anything worse than being rejected by the people we respect. So we build an armor of arrogance to convince ourselves that we’re pretty good, that we’re not that bad, that we’ve got it going on, after all.

We already know the flaw in that approach, though. God rejects the self-reliant. He tosses down the self-important. As a life strategy, pride leads us in the exact opposite direction of the one we want to go. It leads to disgrace. It leads to worthlessness. It leads to being mocked by God.

God asks us to trust him, instead. He asks us to believe that 1) his opinion of us is the most important, and 2) he will lift us up with him, exalt us, make us somebodies forever.

Think: Have you ever noticed people trying to use pride (bragging, arrogance, smugness) to hide their fear of being worthless? Why does that fail in the long run?

Pray: Ask God to help you to reject pride for any reason and to find grace and wisdom in choosing humility.

Do: If you watch sports, look for examples of humility and pride in action this week.

Humility Week: What Mary Said

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.’ ” (Luke 1:46-49)

Mary was probably a teenager when an angel showed up and told her she was going to be pregnant with and give birth to the Son of God – even though she’d never had sex. I’d guess someone in that position could see it all as either evidence of her own greatness or as the worst news ever.

humility_350Instead, Mary shows us what humility looks like. How? First, she believed the message of the angel. Believing things you can’t understand takes humility. Next, she accepted the assignment; allowing God to change your plans and send you into a potentially humiliating situation takes a lot of humility.

Finally, she praised God for noticing her humility and lifting her up to a blessed position for his own glory. As we’ve seen this whole week, that’s what God promises to do for humble people.

Mary was just a girl, not without weakness or sin. And that’s the point. Like us (kind of), she received a gift of grace, the call to carry inside of her the Savior, the hope of glory. The only reasonable response for her – and for us – was to humbly say “yes,” then “thank you,” and then “for your glory.”

Think: What can you learn from Mary’s example? Do you think you would have said to God yes, thank you, and “for your glory”? Have you done that with the assignment(s) he’s given to you today?

Pray: Ask God to help you to respond to his direction in your life with humility, gratitude, and a desire to see him get the glory.

Do: Read Mary’s whole song in Luke 1:46-55.