Monday, January 10, 2011

True Humility

In yesterday's sermon Dave Nelson exhorted us to true humility. Here is how Spurgeon it.

Christian Classics: five books by Charles Spurgeon in a single file, with active table of contents, improved 9/21/2010“What is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is, ‘to think rightly of ourselves.’ Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s-self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought…It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this and that when he knows he is lying…It is not humility to underrate yourself. Humility is to think of yourself,  if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have the lower we ought to lie…Humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. ...Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all cometh from God. ..It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.”[1]
What are your thoughts? Is this how you see true humility?

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Park Street Pulpit, Vol 2, pg 566-67 (Albany, OR, Ages Software, 1997)


  1. Part 1

    Spurgeon is undoubtedly drawing what he says from this passage in Romans 12: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:3-8). Spurgeon's definition focuses mostly on the first part of verse 3: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." It is very instructive, however, to see how Paul ties together this “thinking rightly of ourselves,” faith, grace, the body of Christ, and serving one another with the gifts God has graciously given various members in the church.

    Paul refers to the kind of thinking Spurgeon illustrates as "sober judgment." Could we infer from this that pride results in an impaired and distorted form of thinking? Does pride bring down Jesus Christ? Does it not say to the Lord of glory, "Your loving sacrifice has little value. Your precious blood is to be trampled under foot"? Pride imagines, "I can be like the Most High," while ignoring God's creative power and his infinite wisdom. Matthew Henry says concerning Psalm 113:6, "It is condescension in him to behold the things in heaven, to support the beings, direct the motions, and accept the praises and services, of the angels themselves; for he needs them not, nor is benefited by them. Much more is it condescension in him to behold the things that are in the earth, to visit the sons of men, and regard them, to order and overrule their affairs, and to take notice of what they say and do, that he may fill the earth with his goodness, and so set us an example of stooping to do good, of taking notice of, and concerning ourselves about, our inferiors. If it be such condescension for God to behold things in heaven and earth, what an amazing condescension was it for the Son of God to come from heaven to earth and take our nature upon him, that he might seek and save those that were lost! Herein indeed he humbled himself." (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible)

    What brings sobriety to our judgment? Paul continues his discourse by saying that God has assigned each a measure of faith. Faith is not something we have of ourselves. The various measures of faith we have are sovereignly assigned to us by God. Knowing that it is all of faith, all of grace, brings sobriety to our judgment.

  2. Part 2

    Paul illustrates all this with the body of Christ. Individual members of a body are not self-sufficient. Each member has been given gracious gifts to use in serving other members. These gifts were part of what Christ purchased on the cross. It is a sobering thought to know that Christ builds his church through his church using gifts that were obtained at the cost His precious blood.

    Individual members of the body of Christ are also dependent upon other members of the body. Is it humbling to recognize that you are not self-sufficient, that we are members of one another and dependent upon grace-enabled sinners for our well-being? Elsewhere Paul says, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable (1 Cor. 12:21-22). "Need" is a very strong term. I like to think I can get along fine without some Christians. Learning to need all members of the body begins with believing that God has given them grace that I need. It is certain that some "lowly, stumbling believer" has been given a gift of God's grace that will prove to be indispensable to me.

    What do I think of Spurgeon's definition of humility? It begins to address the core of what Paul is teaching in Romans 12. Knowing that, at the cost of the blood of Christ, I have been given gifts to use for God's glory in meeting needs of my brothers and sisters is very humbling. Acknowledging that I, too, need grace that has been given to blood-washed sinners for my benefit will help me to think rightly about myself.

  3. Thanks for these comments Dan. I especially appreciate your pointing out that we need the lowliest members of the Body or even some of the more obnoxious ones, by God's gracious design. Sober judgment of oneself is the understanding that God made us exactly as He pleased and gave us all we have for as long as we have it in this fleeting life. I don't think humility is "to annihilate self" as Spurgeon said, but to see oneself "rightly", as Spurgeon also said! Part of this right seeing, at least for me, is not only acknowleging that my gifts come from and belong to Him, but that the opportunities I have to use them are also from God, and may be to either a greater or lesser degree than I desire! If I am an invalid, I have limited scope for my gifts (though still have the gift of faith to pray, praise etc). On the other hand, if I am enjoying physical health as the "older woman" in a group of several younger women, I may find I am exhausted by an overabundance of opportunity to use my gifts. These are extreme examples, but still illustrate that the number and degree of opportunities to exercise gifts are also in the Lord's hands. Then there is the third component, the will or desire to use gifts given the opportunity, and why we sometimes make the most of the time and sometimes waste it. A different topic for a different day.