Humility for Eternity
Updated: Apr 27
The joy of humility in the life of the believer
What is the role of humility in the Christian life? Are we supposed to be humble because of sin or for some other reason? What even is humility anyways? I remember this question being bandied around in college. Among the questions considered as students, humility was among them. (I should say this probably had more to do with our consciences convicted by the confident certainty of changing the world, rather than actual piety.)
After a number of conversations and dialogues an answer was supplied from the pen of C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” (The fact that we couldn’t even come up with our own answer should have been humbling in and of itself, but no matter.)
As grateful as I am for C.S. Lewis, I think we need more than the above quip. After all, thinking of myself less still does not tell me how I am to think of who I am. If I come up with an improper and inflated definition of myself then surely even the slightest consideration would be prideful.
The passage we will look at is Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
The context of this verse is the new life we have received in Christ. As Christians, we are united to Christ who is the first fruits of the new creation, the second Adam who is perfectly obedient to the Father, has risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God most high. The command to “put on” is to cultivate that which is in accord with this reality.
When we consider humility and ask ourselves the question, “Who are we?”, we answer that we are adopted sons and daughters of God. We say that we are those saints who have been made righteous. We sing that we are those who have been known by our Father from eternity past, that he delights in us, and there is no one and nothing who can snatch us away.
In this short list is something we must not forget. All that we have, all that we are, is what we have been given. We have not fought for, earned, or achieved any of the above. Rather, we have received good gifts. In light of that, the only possible posture is humility.
Does this mean that our personal histories, personalities, and characteristics don’t matter as a part of our identity? It’s a good question. These things do matter, but we view them not as things of which we are in possession of, but as things given to us by God for stewarding.
In our day to day living, in our relationships, and places of work we put on humility because we know that called us to himself and for such a time as this. We don’t feel the need to assert our superiority or take what isn’t ours because we have a God who goes before us.
Humility is not merely a characteristic of we redeemed sinners for the short time we are on earth. Humility is the posture of those who belong to God; those who acknowledge that they have received countless good gifts and so live in joy. A proper understanding of humility is not only fitting for life on earth, but prepares for eternity with the source of all good things.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in D.C. and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.