By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

Pride lives and thrives in the heart of every human being. Often it is very obvious, and at other times very devious. It has an infinite number of disguises –even in the form of humility.  Desire for honor is often the motivation for excelling in whatever areas of gifting we have, for perfectionism and good deeds.  The natural mind is very creative in forging excuses for our pride and in creating ways to hide it.

We need to know the difference between human pride and the good feeling that comes from honoring God by being obedient to His will. Pride is rooted in selfhood, while obedience is rooted in humility and faith.  Pride leads to comparisons, self-exaltation and the putting down of others, while obedience brings glory to God, and fills us with a peace that goes beyond our understanding. Pride lavishes honor on self; humility does not take credit for doing the will of God, for it recognizes that it is the Christ in us who makes us willing, and enables us to do His will!  All honor and praise belong to God - and should  be given  to Him!  

The human mind has conjured up many ideas as to what humility consists of.  Many think it consists of feeling downtrodden and depressed, or unimportant and of little value. To make their humility known  they often have sad, pious expressions on their faces, and wear clothes to match.  These feelings do not help us to grow spiritually, so they do not come from God.  They are the counterfeits of true humility!

Counterfeits do not help us to overcome our fleshly desires. We can pass laws that tell us not to hate anyone, not to steal, not to be jealous, etc., but these laws do not help us to overcome these desires.  Laws never give us any help to fulfill their demands.   In fact, they only increase our desire to outwit them!  “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom and self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”  (Col. 2:23) These matters only have the appearance of wisdom, but all self-effort is futile against pride.  Our teaching has to come from God; psychology and philosophies of men have no spiritual value.

The apostle Paul wrote:  “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” (Col. 2:18-19)  Pride wants to infiltrate everything we do – both the good and the bad!  It is an effective motivator and manipulator, so parents, pastors, teachers and politicians often make use of it. 

We can have pride in everything we do – in our self-abasement, in being better Christians than others, in having more visions, having a greater ministry, having great biblical insights, being more honest, more spiritual, more generous, better church-attenders, greater intercessors, or whatever.  In pride we attribute self to be the underlying strength for these virtues.  It is difficult for us to recognize that all self-effort has its roots in the law.  We need to remember that we are God’s workmanship, and  everything that God  gives us is a gift that is rooted in His mercy, grace and love!  If we take credit for what He has given us, we are robbing God of the honor and praise that is His due!  This is pride - and pride defrauds us of our prize! 

To ascertain the true meaning of humility, let’s see what the scriptures teach us.  Christ Jesus said that He was humble and lowly of heart, so He is our perfect example of true humility!  Did He downgrade Himself? Not at all!  He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matt. 11:29-30)  

Jesus knew who He was; He knew that God was His Father; He knew that He had come to do the Father’s will.  He lived and spoke in agreement with that knowledge.  There was nothing wishy-washy about Him!  He spoke with authority, cleansed the temple, and dared to tell the scribes and Pharisees that they were whitened sepulchers full of dead men’s bones!  (We can readily understand their anger when they heard this.)   He healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the raging sea, and fed the multitudes!  He washed the disciples’ feet and did not receive glory and honor from people.  He only did the will of the Father; He never did His own will – He was always obedient to the Father’s will, regardless of the cost to human dignity and the horrible pain produced by torture!  It was His humility that enabled Him to submit His will to the Father’s will!

In Phil. 2:5-8 we are told to have the same attitude that Jesus had.  “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”   Again our attention is drawn to His humility!

Christ did not insist on His rights!  He emptied Himself of all desires that were against the will of God.  He knew He was the only begotten Son of His Father God, and that all things had been created through Him.  He knew that He had the power to come down from the cross!  He had the correct estimate of Himself.  He knew that He was the beginning of the new humanity that would reveal the invisible Father to the world!   He also knew that humility is the key to obedience!  Without humility it is impossible to submit our will to the Father’s will because our will always seems best to us.  However, we can only glorify the Father by doing His will!  Doing our own will is disobedience – it is not an option!  Christ recognized the fact that it was not an option for Him!  In obedience to the Father’s will He humbled Himself to become a servant, and to allow Himself to be rejected, ridiculed and despised.  His willingness to become a servant and to suffer was not due to an inferiority complex or from putting Himself down; it came out of His unity with His Father and with His Father’s will.  This concept is foreign to our natural thinking!

Do we know that we are children of God, or do we still see ourselves as being sinners in Adam?  Do we have the correct estimate of ourselves?  Do we think we deserve the best because we are King’s kids?  Do we have a higher opinion of ourselves than we ought to have?  Do we have more rights than Christ had?  Do we realize that unless we receive a revelation from God in regard to the utter depravity and pride resident in the natural mind, we will think we are better than we actually are. 

An incident that happened many years ago is still very vivid in my memory.  At that time I was serving my church in a leading capacity, and after a successful program my friend accused me of being proud.  That caught me by surprise because I thought I was very humble.  That night as I knelt down to pray I told the Lord that IF there was any pride in me – I wanted to ask Him for forgiveness, but I didn’t get that far.  God interrupted my prayer, and in a voice that came as a thundering bolt of lightning said, “That is not good enough!” That changed my prayer! The “IF” was forgotten, and I prayed, “God forgive me my pride.”  That prayer was accepted!  Pride is no respecter of persons.   Even Paul needed a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming proud.

In Christ we see that humility is foundational for doing the will of God.  It is the key to being set free from jealousy, bitterness, desire for control, honor, and blaming others for our own imperfections. It is the key for being set free from our worship of traditions and self.  Since pride and desire for honor and acceptance keep us in our traditions, creeds, doctrines and modes of worship, humility is also the key to receiving revelation truth.  Just like the Jewish leaders in Christ’s time could not understand Christ’s teaching, many leaders in today’s churches cannot understand the spiritual message of the scriptures, so their teaching remains in the earthy, carnal realm.  This obliterates the true spiritual message, and opens the way for substitutions to take the place of Christ.   Humility is the key to obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.  It is the key to greatness in the sight of God!  “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:4)

Since humility is so important, let’s look at some scripture verses that emphasize our need to humble ourselves:

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life (Greek: PSUCHE – soul) a ransom for many.”   Matt. 20:26-28

 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:11; 18:14)

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”    Eph. 4:1-3

            “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”   Col. 3:12

But He gives a greater grace.  Therefore it says, `God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and He will flee from you.”    James 4:6-7

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”  (James 4:10)

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”   1 Peter 5:5-6         

In Philippians 4 we read that Christ humbled Himself, and in these verses we are also told to humble ourselves.  Since we are told to humble ourselves, it is important to know how we can achieve humility.  In Phil. 4:6 we have the answer.  “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Here we see that HUMILITY and OBEDIENCE are intertwined, and that HUMILITY can only be manifested by being OBEDIENT to the Father’s directives.  Christ left His glory with the Father, and appeared as a man.  In obedience He was willing to be rejected, ridiculed and tortured as He accepted the cursed, shameful death of a criminal! 

Obedience begins in our thought life, and it has to rule over our feelings. It simply does not feel right to praise and rejoice when we are in a difficult situation.  We think we have a right to feel anxious, but Paul tells us to rejoice always and to be thankful in all things.  Instead of fretting and feeling rebellious we are to think about good things.

In Phil. 4:6-8 we read, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Guarding our thought life is foundational to both our physical and spiritual life!  Researchers have found that unhealthy thoughts like unforgiveness and bitterness burn holes in our brain, and love and forgiveness produces healing and restoration.  God is well aware of these facts, so He has given us a recipe to follow that will give us peace and joy!  

Guarding our thought life does not mean that we negate our sadness, grief and anxiety, but we bring everything to Him and accept His comfort.  This is not about suppression, but about letting God release us from the snare of bitterness, anger or revenge; we must not let them take root in us.   It is not a sin to feel the pain of rejection and the grief of separation, etc., but it is important that in humility we submit all these things to the sovereignty of God. When we are called to suffer because of our obedience to God’s will, and we accept this abuse in humility, it will destroy all feelings of rebellion and self-pity. We too will be able to pray with Christ, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  This is living in the mind of Christ! 

Guarding our thought life requires humility.  The difference between pride and humility is like the difference between darkness and light.  Pride wallows in self-pity and wants retribution; humility wants healing and growth in relationship.  Pride fosters rebellion; humility encourages acceptance.  Pride brings separation; humility brings unity.  Pride fosters bitterness and anger; humility forgives and seeks reconciliation. In pride we work against God; in humility we work with Him!   Pride thinks we can make right choices; humility recognizes that only God has the right answer.  Pride wants honor; humility wants God’s will.  Pride wants to be served; humility is willing to serve.  Pride wants to save its honor and well-being; humility is willing to lay its honor and well-being on the altar of sacrifice  for others! 


The rewards of humility are great!  God rewarded Christ for His humility by giving Him a name that is above every name!  “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9)  Christ’s humility was manifested in His willingness to leave the glory that He had with the Father!  He was willing to leave His comfort zone, and experience unity and oneness with the Father on a different level.  He was willing to become united with our humanity, to be tortured and mocked by those He had come to save! In death He joined Himself to sinful humanity and became the sin-offering for all sin!  His exaltation came after His death and resurrection! 

Christ is our example. How do we respond when we are demoted, rejected, mocked and ridiculed?  Do we strive for our former glory or position, or are we willing to experience oneness with God on a different level, even as Christ did? God wants us to put our faith in Him, and He has promised to work ALL things for good to those who love Him!  So we can trust him to work all our trying situations for good in our lives!  The challenge is to keep the same attitude of humility, love, forgiveness and obedience that Jesus had in His trying situations.    God’s grace is sufficient for every eventuality! 

All true exaltation comes from God!  Self-exaltation is pride.  We need to be deeply aware of the fact that everything we have is a gift from God, and walk in humble thankfulness for all that God in Christ has done for us!  God works in and through us to do His will!  These are the works that receive a reward!  And in due time, “He will exalt you.”  (James 4:10)

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