What Does the Bible Say About Humility?

Hudson Taylor said, "I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me." Mr. Taylor was a humble man. The Bible tells us that the doctrine of humility is very important, but humility isn't too popular in our society.

Though not widely accepted, the Bible teaches time and again that we should be humble and quiet. Many people would agree with the humble part, although few people actually practice humility. However, the quiet part doesn't seem as important, even though the Bible adamantly commands us to be quiet in both our speech and our actions. In fact, quietness goes hand-in-hand with humility. I like to think of this as the doctrine of quietness.

1Thessalonians 4:11 says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands." God wants us to live quietly and in peace, and He wants us to work to supply our material needs.

1 Timothy 2:2 says, "That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." This is in keeping with the grace way of life.

1 Peter 3:4 says, "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." God is telling us that quietness is the rule for our everyday speech.

In Exodus 14:14, Israel was told the same thing. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." The Bible promotes self-denial over self-promotion.

Let's look further at what the Bible has to say about talking. Proverbs 17:27 says, "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint." Proverbs 10:19 says, "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 29:11 says that, "a fool is someone who ". . . utters all his mind." Proverbs 17:28 says, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."

In these proverbs, God associates words with sin, and quietness with wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. Of course, some speech is necessary. God is not suggesting total silence or He wouldn't have given us tongues. Indeed, it would be difficult to present the gospel message without speaking. Yet, we should not take these guidelines of Proverbs and the epistles too lightly, because a lot of talking always begins with a little bit of talking.

2 Timothy 2:16 says, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." Excessive talking can easily lead to arguments, which are condemned by God. He wants us to be humble and quiet.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 says, "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth." We are charged to be kind, patient, and gentle. Most of us have a natural fear of public speaking. Perhaps this is God's way of reminding us to remain quiet and humble.

1 Timothy 6:4-5 gives us a warning against an says, ""... unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." These scriptures suggest that the flamboyant and loud Christian may not be godly. We should never try to impress people or pretend that we're something that we're not. Quietness and humility are always the order of the day for Christians.

In accordance with an attitude of quietness comes the doctrine of listening. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." The book of Proverbs is filled with admonitions to listen to others, and especially to listen to our elders who have the knowledge, experience, and maturity to help us. This is how we learn. Furthermore, we can often be of great service by simply listening to someone's problems, and saying nothing ourselves. Sometimes, it's just the sharing that helps people feel better, regardless of any advice given or action taken. We need to become good listeners instead of concentrating upon what we're going to say next. Obviously, listening requires us to be quiet, and even humble.

One way of viewing God's definition of quietness is as a condemnation of vanity. Whatever won't last is vanity, and we should avoid it. The lesson here as it's most applicable to us today is to avoid extraneous small talk. This doesn't set well with us, because we like to ask people how they are when we really don't care. We like to flatter people and try to force them to like us if we see a chance for personal gain. We like to give the appearance of being authorities on subjects that we know nothing about. We love to argue about things that don't matter. We feel obligated to get the last word in the conversation. Have you ever met a person who tried to defeat everything you did or said? If you had a bad day, he says he had a worse one. If yours was good, his was better. He doesn't know about our godly duty to be quiet and humble.

All this extraneous small talk is condemned by Paul as ". . . empty chatter." How many of the words from your mouth are just empty chatter? Usually, speech only manifests our pride, and those words are better left unsaid. When was the last time you said, "How are you?" without really caring how that person was? If we really care, we should say, "Please take a moment and tell me about yourself," and then listen with open ears and an open heart. I like to ask people what thoughts they have been thinking during the past day. That's how you get involved in people's lives. Again, in order to listen, one must be quiet and humble.

It is interesting to note the quietness in the life of Jesus. In Luke 9:5, Jesus told the disciples to just quietly leave from the places where they were rejected. What did Jesus do when the people asked him to leave in Matthew 8:34? The next verse, Matthew 9:1, tells us simply that he quietly left. He could have argued and pled with the people or told them truthfully how terribly wrong they were, but he just left quietly.

What did Jesus reply when the high priest became furious about his silence in Matthew 26:62? Matthew 26:63 simply says, "Jesus remained silent." Of course, Jesus wasn't always silent. He often taught by speaking, and he even eventually answered the high priest. However, the lesson to be learned here is that Jesus used silence when confronted, and we should too. If anyone ever had the right to speak, Jesus did, but he often chose not to say everything that came to His mind. Please remember that attracting attention to oneself is the opposite of quietness and humility.

Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." We should be so humble that we actually consider others to be more important than ourselves.

God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh in order to keep him from ". . . becoming conceited" (2 Corinthians 12:7). The Christian doctrine of humility is in sharp contrast to today's encouragement toward self-esteem and a positive self-image, which often invoke pride. In reality, most of us probably suffer from too much self-esteem, and too little humility. Humility and quietness don't come naturally or easily because of our flesh, but when these traits are exhibited, they deserve our utmost respect. The Bible tells us that a quiet non response is never a bad idea. Proverbs 12:16 says, "A prudent man overlooks an insult.

A test of humility wouldn't be complete without an examination of competition. Galatians 5:26 says, "Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others? Romans 14:10 says, "You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat."

We tend to excuse our competitive spirit because we're motivating ourselves to do our best and improve our skills. Yet, the Bible says that any time we judge, or boast, or regard others with envy or contempt, we've carried our competition too far.

When was the last time you saw a sporting event that didn't include judging, challenging, provoking, or envying? The winners are boastful, and the losers are discouraged and envious. Sometimes the winners are even discouraged because they feel like they didn't contribute appropriately to the winning effort.

When too much emphasis is placed upon winning and losing, we can't obey Hebrews 12:14 which commands us to--Live in peace with all men. How many athletes can honestly say, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose?" The Bible is certainly not condemning physical fitness or entertainment, but when these activities reach into the realm of competition and judgment, they are not desirable activities for Christians. Instead, we are to accept one another as Christ has accepted us (Romans 15:7).

We even compete about material things such as money and clothing. Have you ever wanted to make as much money as someone else? Young people, have you ever felt cheated because someone else had a pair of tennis shoes that you wanted? I would advise you to reject this type of western influence.

Hebrews 13:5 says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 1 Timothy 6:8 says, "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Philippians 4:11-13 says, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The Bible seems to be telling us that it's not wrong to speak, but too much talk easily leads to boasting, envy, and arguments. If we removed these elements from our speech, we would indeed be practicing the quietness which is precious in God's sight.

Colossians 4:5-6 says, "Let your speech be . . . full of grace." We should stop complaining. Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing. Christians should be nice, courteous, and responsive when others speak to them, but they should not complain or make judgmental comments.

To many people, the doctrine of humility and quietness may not rank as a major doctrine of Christianity. However, the Bible has much to say about humility being the normal and constant attitude of Christians. This is difficult for us because of social pressures, but humility is the obvious attitude of a Christian who has been humbled by God's sovereignty and grace.

James 3:1-8 says that the tongue is a very powerful weapon, and it can be an evil one. James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. God, how great thou art.

Owen Weber 2008