And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5b (NET)
When I think about pride, the opposite of humility, it reminds me of an overly -inflated balloon. A mere touch can cause it to burst! When we are proud, we are very close to bursting and don’t even realize it. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before a fall.” To eliminate the risk of a fall, test your humility. Otherwise, God may use a fall to humble you.
What is humility? It is a correct estimation of who you are in light of who God is; it means being without pretension. One dictionary says this about humility:
It by no means implies slavishness or servility; nor is it inconsistent with a right estimate of oneself, one's gifts and calling of God, or with proper self-assertion when called for. But the habitual frame of mind of a child of God is that of one who feels not only that he owes all his natural gifts, etc., to God, but that he has been the object of undeserved redeeming love, and who regards himself as being not his own, but God's in Christ. He cannot exalt himself, for he knows that he has nothing of himself. The humble mind is thus at the root of all other graces and virtues.5
Faith is the foundation of obedience, courage, purity, faithfulness, and humility; then, humility becomes the foundation of our godly interaction with others. Thus, we study it before we look at other godly qualities that affect our relationships.
As a man Jesus was the supreme example of humility.
Read Philippians 2:5-8.
1. What do you learn about the attitude of humility from Jesus’ example?
2. Sharing question: Consider what Jesus gave up by humbling himself to bring eternal life to us. What thought from the Philippians passage is most precious to you? Why?
3. Sharing question: Have you ever humbled yourself by giving up something that you deserved for the benefit of others? If so, share the story.
4. Read Mt. 11:28-30 where Jesus describes himself as humble. What kind of person would you be if you were as Jesus describes himself here?
Diamonds in the Word: Look up humility in Greek study tools that you own or those available online. Note any thoughts you have that add to your understanding of this quality.
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem extolling Jesus’ willingness to humble himself.
This week’s character is Paul, a man who had to be humbled to see the truth about God.
Begin Paul’s story by reading Acts 7:54-8:3.
6. Describe Paul at this point in his life.
Now read what God did to humble him in Acts 9:1-19.
7. Tell the account as if you were a reporter for the Damascus News who heard the story and investigated. Write a headline for your report if you like☺
8. Why would this have been humbling for Paul?
9. Sharing question: Have you ever been proven wrong about something? What was it? How did you react and how did you feel?
10. Responding to God: Ask God to begin to show you how you are puffed up in any area of your life right now. Pray for humility. Write your prayer below.
Read Gal. 1:11-2:2, where Paul looks back at his past.
11. Carefully look at this passage and write down anything that suggests Paul’s former pride, the opposite of humility (Gal. 1:13-14).
12. What in this passage reveals Paul’s humility (Gal. 1:15-2:2)?
Read Gal. 2:11-14.
13. Describe Paul’s encounter with Peter. Was he humble or not in this situation? Go back to the introduction to this lesson and reread the definition of humility from the ISBE to help you decide. Take Mt. 7:3-5 into account as you answer.
Diamonds in the Word: Use any resources that you can find to look up this passage. What do others have to say about what Paul did?
14. Read 1 Cor. 10:12. What is a danger when we see someone else’s sin? How does this relate to humility and pride?
15. Sharing question: Have you ever pointed out the sin of a friend? Did you act in humility or pride? How did he/she react?
16. Responding to God: Draw a picture of Mt. 7:3-5—even you who hate to do this:) Ask God to show you the log in your own eye and so label it in your picture. Expect him to show you something if you are truly humble!
Ministry can often be accompanied by pride, just as is true of every other area of success. Today we will reflect on Paul’s attitude toward ministry, considering the need to look humbly at our successes.
17. Read these passages and comment on Paul’s attitude toward his success:
18. Read 2 Cor. 12:1-10. What was one way that God used to keep Paul humble despite his great success as an apostle? How did Paul respond to God’s work in his life?
Diamonds in the Word: Read in your commentaries or other online resources about 2 Cor. 12:1-10.
Read Ephesians 3:7-12.
19. How does Paul show humility in this passage? Would you say that he sounds like he is boasting? Explain your reasoning.
21. Sharing question: Sometimes it is difficult to say that we are good at something and volunteer, especially in the church, because we don’t want to sound prideful; however, in light of Rom. 12, we need to recognize these as gifts from God and not of ourselves. Share with your group one gift that God has given you. Share how God is using you in your local church, the body where God has put you to serve!
22. Responding to God: Ask God if there is anything going on in your life that he has designed to humble you. There are many reasons for illness, grief, and trials so we can’t know the reason unless God shows us. Whatever it is that he shows you, ask for the grace to live with it, as Paul did. Pray 2 Cor. 12:9-10 for yourself, asking him to change your attitude to be like Paul’s. Write your prayer below.
Today we reflect on the impact that humility has on our relationships with others.
Read Phil. 3:2-14.
23. How does Paul express humility here? How would his attitude affect his relationships with others?
Read Phil. 2:3-5.
24. Consider what you have read about Paul this week. How did he embody these instructions in Philippians?
Diamonds in the Word: Read the entire passage 1 Pet. 5:5-11. What insights do you gain concerning humility and how it relates to the other subjects that Peter mentions here?
26. If we obey Phil. 2:3-5, how would it affect the instructions in the following verses?
27. Sharing question: Of the verses you have read today, which one stands out to you? What does God seem to be saying to you about your own humility and its effect on others? Realize that every woman in your group is proud in one way or the other. There is no room for judging others in this area—or any other!
28. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem about your own pride, which we all have, and about the humbling experiences that God has given you.
God is faithful to work in our lives to make us more like Jesus, even when it requires humbling us! Ruth shares her story of how God humbled her.
Humility is a learning experience. Often the road to getting there is painful because of pride that has prevented you from being humble. I remember a work situation that God used to humble me many years ago. It was a job I did not want but had to take. I knew after the first week that I was not well liked but didn’t know until years later that the reason was not of my making, but because the department had been forced to hire me by their supervisors. They resented not having a say in the matter and took it out on me. They made my life miserable and I cried for six months into the position.
Amazingly I stayed there several years, was promoted on two occasions and ended up being well respected. I learned so much there that has been used in my present position but the journey was very humbling and painful. God worked His purpose in a difficult situation to teach me that there were areas in my life that had to be identified and dealt with in order to be effective in ministry. I realized that when I went into the new position I expected strangers to like and respect me the way people who had known me for years did. But respect is something that must be earned through an attitude of humility and there is simply no room for pride in the equation.
Humility is a way of yielding to the mighty hand of God. We are to be clothed in it – to put it on as a garment; not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength in resisting personal pride. As we do, we have a promise from God that He will give us grace and exalt us in due time. (I Peter 5:5-6) I know this to be true from experience. In my moments of humility in a difficult situation, God truly gave grace and strength from His mighty hand. I praise Him for it.
If anyone had a right to be proud, it was Paul. He lays out his resume in Philippians 3:5-6 where he states that he was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” And yet, as a believer and follower of Christ, he saw that these things paled in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Our culture does not value humility. In fact, humility is often seen as a weakness. To get ahead in business or in life, people are encouraged to promote themselves and perhaps even pretend they are something they are not. The view from Scripture is in opposition to the world’s view. Pride and humility and the consequences of each are a recurring theme in the book of Proverbs as well as in the rest of the Bible. Pride is associated with arrogance, pretension, destruction, and humiliation while humility is associated with wisdom, honor, and rewards. When we have pride because of our accomplishments or our jobs or our wealth, we have forgotten that it is the Lord who gives us our ability, our opportunities, and our health. Without Him, nothing would be possible. Pride causes us to take credit that belongs to God.
If pride is to be avoided, how can we as moms encourage our children without being proud or encouraging pride in them? I think we can rejoice with our children in their accomplishments and in the significant events in their lives while acknowledging that God is the one who has gifted them and allowed them to do well. We are their cheerleaders. We are on the sidelines of the triumphs and failures of their lives, always believing in them and never giving up. We are praying for them, asking God to use them, and thanking Him for being involved in their lives.
Do not boast about tomorrow;
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.
Action Step: Show your children their sonograms and talk about God’s design and His plan for them (Ps 139). Explain to them that success is fulfilling God’s plan and purpose. Teach them to give God credit for the things they accomplish.