Humility as Gift
Tucked obscurely behind the broad sweep of God’s judgment pronounced by Zephaniah, a judgment which is equally fierce against Israel as against Israel’s enemies—is the promise to spare a humble remnant of the house of Judah. All the nations are guilty of violating God’s righteousness, says Zephaniah—Israel as well as Philistia—from the seacoasts to the deserts, from the mountains to the salt pits.
God’s wrath is directed against the scoffing and boasting of the proud, announces Zephaniah, but for the few who have remained humble, the remnant of the house of Judah, God will provide safe pasture. Humility is a common theme of scripture, and just as commonly is linked with righteousness. The Christian who seeks righteousness must practice the stewardship of humility. We are almost perpetually assaulted by repeated temptations to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, persuaded to believe that we are better, more moral, possessors of a higher ethic than those of other faiths. What sets Christianity apart is not our ethic, it is the grace offered in Jesus Christ when we fail to keep that ethic. Hence, Paul’s admonition: “If anyone is tempted to boast, let them board in the Lord!”
—Rev. Tim Suenram
- If righteousness is related to humility, what does this say about self-esteem and positive self-image? Are there apparent conflicts? How does the gospel address them?
- Is humility a gift, or can it be acquired through personal effort?
- Are optimism, pessimism, hope, or cynicism related to pride or humility? In other words does being optimistic or hopeful necessarily preclude being proud or arrogant?
How Do I Act?
- Make an extensive personal gifts inventory. Be honest; false modesty is not an attribute in this exercise. Next to each gift, note persons from who you have received or inherited that gift, along with those who helped you to develop it. Be thorough. Reflect on the ways in which God has used others, either directly or indirectly, to gift you with talents to use in God’s service.
- Name three persons, celebrities or personal acquaintances, who you admire. List attributes that cause that admiration. Are these persons humble, or proud? What does your answer say about your desire for righteousness?
- Read the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). There are three relationships in the story: God/tax collector, God/Pharisee, and tax collector/Pharisee. Discuss how humility and righteousness are connected to the three relationships.