Thursday, May 25, 2006

What Is Humility?

G.K. Chesteron, writing nearly 100 years ago, pinpointed some distinctions regarding humility that we need to hear these days. He wrote:

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." (Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32)

This quote is cited in a short, helpful article by John Piper entitled What Is Humility?

Piper offers the following theses from the Bible in answer to his question:

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ.

2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.

3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary.

4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing.

5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it; but also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others.

To see the full article and the biblical support, see the article. See also C.J. Mahaney's book, Humility: True Greatness.