I don’t think Jesus was humble. I really don’t. If I met him today, humble is probably not something I would take away as a first impression. Now, before you start quoting Philippians 2:6-8 or Romans 15:3 to me, let me explain. I believe that our understanding of humility is so skewed that, were we to meet Jesus, many of us would come away saying that he was arrogant and presumptuous. Why do I think that? I’m glad you asked!
In our world today, we equate submissiveness with humility. Humility is eager to please, non-confrontational, and always accepting. It’s an enabling disposition. Think about it: those that you think of as humble are probably not in authority above you, probably have never rebuked you, and probably generally go along with what you want. As selfish beings, we like that, because it strokes our ego and plays into our false personal narrative that we deserve to be treated like that. Those behaviours (which are actually self-serving) cause us to feel amicably towards a person, because it feeds our pride – the very opposite of humility.
Similarly, if someone were in authority over us, rebuked our behaviours and attitudes, and – most insufferably of all – believed he was without fault, we would despise him. Even if he were sinless, we would still hate it, and never think of those actions as being consistent with true humility. Our understanding of humility is so backward that we define humility as pride and pride as humility; so much so that I believe that most of us would be more in-stride with the Pharisees in our reactions to a real, live Jesus.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that manipulative, loud, and aggressive people are humble. Rather, humility rejects both the self-serving, enabling insecurities we call humility and the self-serving, forceful ambition we call arrogance, and instead pursues the greatest good for each person, giving others greater honour than they deserve, expecting none in return. Sometimes, this means a humble man must firmly confront me, when he believes I am in error and bringing harm to others or myself.
I know that Jesus was humble, the most humble man to ever walk this earth even, but I do not think that were I to meet him, that I would feel that he were humble, simply because of my own pride, and my misunderstanding of true, godly humility. I think instead that John got it right when he wrote that Jesus “came full of grace and truth”. True humility is a perfect union of compassion and correction, and really has very little to do with disposition.
And so, I hope and pray that I will become more a man that has courage to speak hard words and the courage to accept them; a man that, as Jesus did, seeks not to be served, but to become a servant to all.