Tag Archives: Pride

Why Trying to Be Humble Doesn’t Work

In his new mini book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller mentions a part of Mere Christianity wherein C.S. Lewis says the thing you would remember from meeting a truly humble person is that he “took a real interest in what you said to him“.  In response, Keller writes the following:

Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself.  Not needing to connect things with myself.  It is an end to thoughts such as, “I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good?  Do I want to be here?”  True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself.  In fact, I stop thinking about myself.

I think Keller is spot-on, which is what got me to thinking about how someone gets to a place where they are characterized by true gospel-humility.  If what Keller says is true, then we cannot simply try to be more humble because this will only focus our thoughts back on ourselves.  We’ll constantly ask questions of ourselves like, “Did I come across as arrogant when I said that?” or “Did I show enough interest in that person?”  These kinds of question only help us adopt a performance mentality that leads us to pride if the answer is good and self-pity (just another form of self-centeredness) if it is bad.

True gospel-humility comes as a result of losing ourselves in the glory of the gospel.  This is why after Paul commands the Philippians, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4), he goes straight into how this kind of humility was displayed in Jesus when he came from heaven to earth to the cross (vv. 5-8).  Paul doesn’t tell them to look inside of themselves but outside of themselves in order to think of others.  But not just anywhere outside of themselves.  If we’re going to forget ourselves and have true humility formed in us, we have to preoccupy ourselves with Jesus.  So it doesn’t mean that there is no trying involved in becoming humble, but the trying is really more about plunging deeper into the heart of God than concentrating on being more humble.

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Exercises in Humility: Contrasting Your Works With God’s

Today, one thing we could all use is a good dose of humility.  If you don’t agree, you probably need two doses, and one to grow on.  Too often we live with the perspective that we are kings or queens and the people in our lives are our subjects whose privileged calling is to do our bidding.  If they fail to follow our commands or meet our expectations then it’s off with their heads (metaphorically speaking, of course).  It’s so easy for us to adopt a “rights” mentality and let it spin out of control wherein someone dropping the ball at the office or the kids running through the house becomes punishable by hissy fit.  In these moments of delusion, we need some truth we can recall easily so that we see things as they truly are.

Last week while studying Psalm 95, I listened to a sermon on the text by Brian Chesemore, one of the pastors at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  In the sermon, Chesemore drew a helpful application from a part of the Psalm where the psalmist tells the congregation to worship God because of his creation: “The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (v. 5).  For humility’s sake, Chesemore said in response that it is a good exercise for us to contrast the works of our hands with the works of God’s hands.  For people like Chesemore and myself, the works of our hands are sad at best.  Put me in a garage with some wood, nails, and tools for a couple of hours and I will have created several new injuries (some of which you thought impossible previous to my time in the garage).  I sit in an office right now that was made by someone else, at a desk made by someone else, in a chair made by someone else, typing on a computer made by someone else, wearing clothes made by someone else, listening to music composed by someone else, drinking coffee brewed by someone else.  The works of my hands, when compared to a God who formed the majesty of every mountain peak and the resplendent beauty of every space nebula, are few and unimpressive.

But what about those of you whose handiwork is the stuff of great quality and quanitity… can you be humbled by contrasting your works with God’s?  Perhaps you are an extremely gifted carpenter or a phenomenal musician or a painter of stunning artistry, where do you stand in comparison with God?  Think of this, you may be creative, but you have not made anything out of nothing.  If you are a musician, then you compose music with notes and sounds made by God, using instruments made out of elements that are part of God’s creation, listening with ears crafted by his hand.  God is the only one who has created out of nothing.  Furthermore, even if you are gifted creatively, then the works of your hands are limited.  There may be one or two areas in which you are highly skilled and have been highly productive, but God has created everything with perfect precision…  even things we will never know existed.

Today, Church, let us be humbled by this contrast and instead of being led to despair because you are not as great as you think you are, praise the one who is greater than you think he is: “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen (Romans 11:36).”

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