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Two men went to the temple to approach God in prayer and seek His favor. One, a Pharisee very sure of his outstanding spiritual achievements, recounted to God his flawless service record. He even thanked the Lord that he was better than others, especially that tax gatherer over there. This other man didn’t dare lift his head. He stood at a distance and pleaded guilty as a sinner, asking God for mercy (see Luke 18:9–14).
It is obvious that the Pharisee, though his outward behaviors may have looked good, was full of pride. And in contrast, the tax collector was quite aware of his unworthiness and was sincerely humble.
It is important to note: Lack of humility is the proof of counterfeit spirituality. The Pharisee thought he had everything so right, but his “spirituality” was not authentic. So many people have so many things to say about the Lord and their walk, but there is a sense that there is nothing real in the spiritual life they’re portraying. The mark of humility is missing. True spiritual maturity will be marked with humility. After 20 years of preaching and a life of hardship and sacrifice, Paul said with a sincere heart, “I am the chief of sinners” (see 1 Timothy 1:15).
Having that mark of humility is God’s plan for all of us as believers. But often we all still experience a lack of respect and love for mankind. We can be insensitive to people’s feelings and indifferent to their circumstances. It can show up as hidden anger, impatience, irritation, bitterness and a tendency to quickly pass judgment. If we analyze these feelings and actions, we find that all of them have their roots in pride. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story, we feel superior in some area, and we aren’t able to manifest the long-suffering love of Christ in our relationships.
In contrast, Christ dealt with people in humility. During His earthly life, He sought to lift others up, even when He confronted them with their problems. He never looked for opportunities to gain a higher position, more respect or greater honor for Himself. That’s why He could tell His disciples to follow His example and be servants of all, to choose the last seat instead of the first and most prestigious.
We cannot manufacture humility. The moment someone tries to be humble, we notice it like a bad taste in our mouth. The outside actions may look right, but their spirit doesn’t match. Humility manifests itself from the reality and understanding we have within us. Natural man with all his knowledge and determination cannot simply be humble.
Christ is our answer. He must be our focus. It is Him working within us and us responding to Him by which we will truly become humble. When we humble ourselves before Him and desire His work in this area, He has the open door to work with us. And He will.
Then in our relationships with others and our daily events of life, we will have many chances to humble ourselves in response to His promptings. Each of these moments is an opportunity for us to be conformed into the humility of Christ and have that mark of humility on our lives.
James 4:10 exhorts us: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.” For our transformation into Christlikeness, this is where it starts. Will you make a commitment today to practice this Scripture? You will find that your love and compassion for others will grow tremendously, and you will experience the joy of being a servant like Jesus.