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Question and Answer

I have a friend who is always talking about the importance of being humble. He often refuses gifts other friends try to give him, will not spend money on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, and lives what I consider to be a kind of uptight life. I often feel guilty around him for going out for a good meal or paying to go to a program of healthy entertainment. It seems like he thinks it’s wrong to do things that aren’t strictly related to the church or missions. I get the feeling that the way he interprets humility is living in total self-denial. I’m wondering what humility really is?

I think people often misinterpret the essence of humility because it is difficult to describe. Humility is a rare virtue, seldom seen and rarely valued when it is. It is counter-cultural to be humble, but not in the way your friend understands it.

Basically, it means not taking yourself too seriously, being interested in others, and understanding that you do not become more valuable to God than anyone else by the things you do or don’t do. Of course we are to live soberly, which means thoughtfully, not gloomily. But the truly humble person was described by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “A cheerful sort of chap who doesn’t think of himself at all,” but who is just interested in the other person.

One prominent person who comes to my mind was the famous country singer Johnny Cash who died about ten years ago. One secular commentator wrote about him, “If the measure of success is to walk with kings and never lose the common touch, Johnny Cash was at the top of the heap.” Johnny Cash let everyone know what motivated his changed life. In fact, on his last album he urged his listeners to “find Jesus.”

Finally, humility is primarily modeled by Jesus Christ, as described in the famous passage in Philippians 2. This is a humility that is not full of self. In the words of Eugene Peterson’s The Message, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” I think Christ would have accepted others’ gifts gratefully and lovingly and enjoyed a good meal and other delights.

BY Dr. Rosalie de Rosset

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute in the Communications Department for over five decades. She is occasionally featured on Moody Radio. Rosalie is a published author, respected speaker, and talented writer. She lives on the northside of Chicago, a city she enjoys for its natural beauty and multi-faceted art offerings.

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