Aristotle understood humility as a moral virtue, sandwiched between the vices of arrogance and moral weakness. The Old Testament was clear on the importance of humility. Jesus exemplified humility. With all of this said, let’s be honest, it’s hard to be humble. Please read more:
Most of us find it difficult to develop the virtue of humility. Although humility is not one of the cardinal virtues, Thomas Aquinas did believe it was “annexed” to temperance, which is a cardinal virtue. Temperance is a righteous habit that governs man’s appetite for the pleasures of the senses. Temperance helps us to keep life in balance. And we all know it can be challenging to keep our ego and our pride in balance.
Humility is something that I have often struggled with. Perhaps that is why God put this message on my heart. I suspect I am not alone. Do you sometimes find it hard to be humble?
Muhammad Ali famously once said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.” In 1980, Mac Davis wrote and sang, “It’s Hard to be Humble.” The song became a huge hit. It was later covered by other artists including Willie Nelson. The song contains these lyrics:
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better lookin’ each day.”
The refrain concludes with these words, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble But I’m doin’ the best that I can!” My hope is that today’s message causes us to ask ourselves this question: “Am I doing the best I can to be humble?”
Both the quote from Ali, and the lyrics from the song point out, in a rather humorous way, the struggle people face with their ego and self-importance. It can be difficult to balance positive self-worth and the virtue of humility.
Humility can be defined as, “A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.”
Humility seems to be in short supply in the world today! Pride, arrogance, and boastfulness are everywhere. Proverbs 11:2 states, “When pride comes, disgrace comes; but with the humble is wisdom.” James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And Proverbs 16:18 warns, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride and arrogance were also on display in the Gospel story found in Mathew 23:2-6 when Jesus points out to the Scribes and the Pharisees that their works were being done only so they could be seen by others.
Christianity is in essence a mysterious union of ourselves with God and others. Original Sin caused a split in this unity and as a result ushered in pride and arrogance which come from a disordered image of self. Our redemption through Jesus Christ mends that shattered unity. Thus, the grace imparted through the Church, allows us to see ourselves in the proper context of Christian unity and in our proper and rightful place as a member of the Body of Christ. It is the grace of God, imparted through the Church, that affords us the ability to be humble.
In Luke 14:7-11 Jesus gives us some practical advice. There He says, “when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus is the model of humility. Philippians 2:1-8 tells us that Jesus, even though He was God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave and coming in human appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Let’s face it, we have no right to be prideful or arrogant. We did not choose to come into this world and we do not know the hour we will be called forth from the world. We depend on God for everything and every breath. Every talent we have in life, is a gift from God. John 15:5 states, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Knowing we are totally dependent on God for everything, let’s ask Him in prayer today to grant us a humble and contrite heart.
Heavenly Father, sometimes I allow myself to be unduly influenced by the opinions of others. Like the Pharisees, I sometimes draw attention to myself. Help me to avoid gloating over praise, and help me to avoid becoming discouraged by criticism. Teach me to focus on You and on others and not on myself. Grant me a humble heart. Amen!
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