Open your Bible and read Luke 7.
My husband jokes that he’s going to write a book called, Humility & How I Achieved It.
His imaginary literary endeavor points out an uncomfortable truth.
We’re keenly aware that we’re not humble enough, if at all. So we tell ourselves we’ll try harder, do better. The trouble is that, the second we realize we’ve accomplished a moment of genuine humility, we’ve failed because we’ve become proud of our humility.
Today’s reading gives us some helpful and encouraging insight.
The Humble Centurion
The Roman centurion in verses 1-10 is an endearing character. The Roman centurions and the Jewish leaders were typically enemies, but this centurion clearly loved the Jewish people (v. 5). The Jewish elders who came to Jesus on the centurion’s behalf spoke highly of him, telling of his generosity to the Jewish people and declaring him worthy of Jesus’s help.
Jesus is willing to help, but while He’s on His way, the centurion develops a severe case of humility.
I wonder what led to the centurion’s sudden change of mind here. Maybe he had sent for Jesus in utter desperation, not really expecting Jesus to take time for him. When he realized Jesus was actually on His way to help, did he suddenly feel he’d been presumptuous?
We don’t know exactly how it happened, but we do know this: The centurion believed Jesus had the power to heal with a single word, even from a distance. He had a deep respect and reverence for Jesus.
Even though the Jewish leaders deemed the centurion worthy of Jesus’s help, the centurion did not consider himself worthy in light of his knowledge of Jesus. The centurion was humble, and Jesus “marveled at” his “great faith (v. 9)”.
The Humble Woman
The woman in verses 36-50 is another example of humility. She was an immoral woman, well aware of her sin and scorned by most people. Her shame could‘ve kept her in seclusion, but instead, she chose to visit Jesus in the home of a Pharisee and lavish Him with extravagant love.
Some might say her actions were far from humble. It was a garish display of exhibitionism, right?
Think about it…
The Pharisee was likely the last person she would choose to be around. She was under no illusions about what people thought of her, especially a religious leader who abhorred her lifestyle. She must’ve expected ridicule, maybe even anticipated being thrown out.
She clearly had a high view of Jesus. He was not the sort of man she usually spent time with. This woman was not stupid. She understood her place in society, and she knew who Jesus was.
But she did it anyway. She made her way into a place she was unwelcome so she could bestow on Jesus the honor He was due. Her faith convinced her that He was worthy of all the shame and ridicule she might experience. She loved Him more than she loved herself.
The Key to Genuine Humility
And that’s it – the key to humility.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.
We achieve true humility when we’re so transfixed by Jesus that we stop thinking about ourselves and instead devote our time, treasure, and talents to His glory.
If we are to become more humble, we must grow in our awe of the Lord. Stop trying harder. Stop looking inward. Instead, look up. Look to Jesus, learn about Him, spend time with Him, and develop a heart of worship. Familiarize yourself with His worthiness.
When we see Jesus clearly, we are naturally humble. Because compared to Him, we are nothing.
“… I [Isaiah] saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted… Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips… For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:1, 5, NASB).’”
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him (Psalm 8:3-4, ESV)?”
“…in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3b, ESV).”