Last Servant of All
Humility is one of those frequently mentioned qualities so often taken for granted. Perhaps because it seems so obvious that we become oblivious to its modest ways. True humility often passes by undetected. Braggarts are brash, grumblers are grating, but the humble go about their quiet work discreetly. To witness it, you have to search it out. It is difficult to define and even more difficult to obtain, being easier said than done and better shown than stated. The Greek term ταπεινός (tapeinos) literally means “not rising far above the ground.” The English word has the same root as humus, plainly meaning “dirt”; and though one isn’t to behave as dirt, the humble man tolerates being treated as such.
True humility, no matter where or when, always begins with God. It is submitting oneself to the Lord, which is yielding to His Will. Jesus said, “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” shall enter into the Kingdom (Matthew 7:21). James reminds us, “Humble yourselves in the sight of Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10). Where does the “sight of the Lord” begin and end? He is everywhere and always with us; and our every decision should reflect this awareness. The prophet Micah put it simply when he said, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (6:8).
Of course, humbly walking in the sight of the Lord encompasses those around us as well – everyone, in fact. Paul counseled, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Until we regard others properly, we will view our service to them as a begrudging obligation rather than as a selfless commitment. Peter made another observation, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). There are times when we must submit to the wisdom of others, even if it’s not the advice we want to hear. Also consider these words, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on his behalf” (I Peter 4:16). Suffering injustice and unfairness, is all part of the life of a humble Christian, and we rejoice in the opportunity to share in the sufferings of our Savior.
Humility is somewhat paradoxical. Though it is learned through obedience and is a byproduct of Godly living, one cannot achieve godliness without humility. And once a man admits to possessing it, immediately it slips through his fingers. Yet, we cannot even hope to succeed unless it is retained. Suffice it to say, humility is hard. Remember these encouraging words of Peter, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you (I Peter 5:6-7).”
So, allow someone else to take the credit. Step aside to let another go ahead. Offer up your seat. Be a neighbor. Give up your time. Go last and patiently endure. “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
– Andrew R. Lehmann