Ask any believer if he or she wants to be highly appreciated and blessed by God and the answer will be no less than an emphatic yes. They want overflowing blessings and they will tell you the areas in need. They want Him to value them right away; they will tell of all things they did, been doing and will do in His name. But, what permits the Lord to bless us richly and what invokes His heart to highly appreciate us? Jesus gives a rather simple and unproblematic answer. He said, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).
If you want to be the greatest in God’s kingdom, you know what to do. Now, humbling ourselves is not something we can acquire instantly or purchase it or put it on like a hat. God knows a humble person; He creates him. To be child-like is how Jesus characterized humility. We know a child’s nature. He is always subject to elders. He always looks up to parents. He is pure in thoughts. Though he whines a bit to get his way, in the end he submits to authority. He is watchful knowing his fragile nature and frailty. He cannot mean ill to others. If he is hurt, he cries, but does not avenge. If he lacks, he asks, but cannot sin. All these make a child the greatest in God’s kingdom. They mark him as humble. And Jesus wants us to be exactly the same. It is a difficult proposition, since we are no longer children, but have been or in some cases still with the knowledge of the world. But, it’s a challenge He puts to us – something to work out every day. If we desire to be the greatest, we must take it up. Humility is not a onetime act neither can one hypocritically don it – he will easily be found out. As we mature into humble people, we get to know what’s it is like to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whatever is God’s begins to become ours.
Understand this saying – “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Luke 12:39). One cannot pretend humility. Either he has it or he doesn’t. The owner of the house should be in a position to stop the thief. He must be smarter and more watchful than the thief. If we can survive pretending humility, there would be no need for God’s righteousness. A child living as a child is like knowing the time of the thief. And if we live our life in humility, we cannot pretend; neither will we have the need to do so. It is very easy to feign humility. Circumstances, pride and people drive us to it. At one moment one may be as a child for it, but in the next when he feels peer pressure or inferior can feign it. Hence, Jesus challenges us to be like a child. It is perhaps the hardest thing to do, but is very possible. First, we must acknowledge Christ as our Master at every instance. Then, allow Him to train us to acquire the attributes of a child.
An example of feigning humility is Ananias and Sapphira. “And kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:2). They imagined they could be just as down to earth as believers contributing to the Lord. They wanted to show people and the apostles something they weren’t. How uncanny! Many times people do it. There could be one or two reasons for it. Either their repentance is incomplete or it is not bearing fruit. In the case of the wife and husband it is the former and in most people feigning humility it is the latter. Let me say how significant humility is. If it is non-existent or feigned, there can be no fruit of the Spirit in us. Just think of what Jesus said. If the child does not have the attributes he is made to have, he is not a child. But that cannot be! So, he will show his attributes. If the owner of the house knows the time of the thief, everything in his house is safe. Even so, if we are humble, we cannot stop displaying the fruit of the Spirit; for the Spirit has the proper space and due atmosphere for His endeavors in us. Just as a person with it becomes known so is the one without it.
Humility that is born of complete repentance and exists in repentance that bears fruit can be typified by the following. “For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter” (2 Cor. 7:11). We are able to vindicate ourselves. This might sound egoistic on the outset. But what Paul means is we can tell ourselves we are of God no matter how things and people are against us. Godly sorrow has prudence from God. We show righteous anger, for it cannot desecrate humility. We fear God and any unbecoming act. One of best traits of humility is longing for God’s viewpoint, will and presence. We exhibit zeal for all that is of God. We avenge the wrong, i.e. we hate it, but not the wrong doer. Above all, we stand blameless in every matter we touch. Godly sorrow brings us to our knees before God and hence, humility.
There is hardship to being humble. God did not leave us without the knowledge of it. “Partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated” (Heb. 10:33). Everyone wishes to wield their sword against us while many actually do. Since we live an unassuming and meek life carrying Christ in us, we become an easy target. People that think the road to glory is in domination and being authoritative or territorial always pick the meek, and believers in Christ are an easy prey. Their approach lacks judgment; their thinking is absurd. Yet, this is how it goes. But, look at Christ, the humble, and where He is now. They do not know this and we know where we are headed, both here and in eternity.
Humility has visible evidence. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2). In this case we do not need another’s help or appraisal. If one is not child-like, his or her prosperity is severely dented. Their soul does not prosper, since all things of pride reside in them. There’s no telling what the list contains. Health gradually and stealthily deteriorates. They are bitter in and for everything they do. There’s more complaining and harsh living typified by unfair attitudes. Pertinently, the only way for our prosperity, good health and prosperity of our soul is the supreme activity of the Holy Spirit in us, and our humility is His pass for it.
Because of all the good qualities of humility we turn into a people Christ wants us to be. Paul who imitated Jesus said, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls…” (2 Cor. 12:15), and we too willingly do the same. Jesus stayed humble throughout His days on earth. He wanted to achieve His goal for the Father and mankind. He was happy to spend and be expended for our souls, which now enjoy the indestructible salvation. And with humility we fill up where Christ is still needed – at home, church, community and/or abroad.