Humility is the Opposite of Superiority
“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” (Proverbs 25:6-7)
We live in a world that values superiority in things and people. People who win, teams who get the best score, scientists who excel by finding discoveries first, and the best cooks or bakers on those TV shows all have something in common—they are superior to their challengers. Products are marketed as being either the best quality, the most readily available, or the most cost-effective. Countries are ranked by their economies, their standard of living, healthcare, employees vacation days, or global power. It seems like the world turns on competition. No wonder it’s so difficult for us to comprehend the idea that humility and servanthood is the crux of blessing for Christians.
The one who exalts herself in the presence of others is a prideful person who considers herself superior to others. Presuming that she deserves the honor, this guest of the king will be humiliated when she is asked to give up her seat to someone who is, in fact, more honorable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)
We can go through this life conflicted in our attitudes between what the world believes and what is true, from God’s Word. Or, we can fight the temptation to yield to the false values of the world, and strengthen our faith by practicing humility—and it does take a lifetime of practice to learn how to be humbled when we want to justify ourselves. We all have a Pharisee in us; we all tend to be thankful that we are not as bad as someone else, have the problems of others, or suffer the illnesses of others. As much as Christians do this, it is not at its root thankfulness, but superiority. Real gratefulness shows itself when we are the ones suffering or ill and have the peace of God to endure with hope and praise for Christ. We don’t do what we do to show off or to generate glory for ourselves, and we don’t presume to have deserved anything from God, because our pride is evidence of our sinfulness. We have received God’s grace—favor which we do not deserve, and mercy—when God withholds the punishment that we do deserve.
Do you see yourself as you present yourself to others, knowing that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”? “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)