Genuine humility is never optional
Genuine humility is absolutely essential to good leadership in any ﬁeld, especially so in Christian leadership. Examples of arrogant, proud leaders abound, and many achieve great things despite their arrogance and lack of humility. However, if we are to truly achieve honor in the sight of God, we must walk in humility and the fear of God. Jesus said that He did not receive honor from men (John 5:41), and so should we not seek the honor of men, but the honor of God.
Now, the above scripture from Proverbs tells us that riches, honor, and life come by way of humility, and this is not merely limited to physical riches. Riches can include money and items of monetary value but it can also include other resources. I have known leaders over the years who continually alienated people through their arrogance and pride, and, not surprisingly, they often ended up stuck in one area or another because they had, through their poor attitude and behavior, driven away someone who God had sent to be a blessing to them.
Pride always leads to disaster
There was once a man in whose jacket was found a note, saying, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one-- one that would do nobody any harm.” This man was none other than Two-Gun Crowley, a murderer and cop-killer who gunned down a police ofﬁcer for asking to see his driver’s license. When he was executed, his last words were, “This is what I get for defending myself.” If this man could not see himself as a bad person, how does the average person think of themselves? The truth is that most people have difﬁculty in admitting to being wrong, and this is often especially true for those among us who are in leadership. As leaders, we must humble ourselves continually so that we do not become blinded to our own errors. In Crowley’s case, his inability to even consider that he could be wrong led him to the electric chair. A lack of humility will always lead to serious mistakes, on way or another:
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
If we walk in pride, destruction follows close behind! Also, let us understand that the Bible tells us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). So many among us who are called to leadership ﬁnd ourselves in situations and circumstances in which we face what seems to be insurmountable resistance, and sometimes it is indeed insurmountable, because it’s God Himself resisting us because of our pride!
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)
Indeed, we are even to be subject to one another in Christ. Does this mean that as leaders we must lay aside the authority that God placed on us? No, but it does mean that we have to guard our hearts from the attitude that because we are the leaders, we must always know what is best. Indeed, God may very well choose to speak to us through someone under our authority, or even through what seems to be an insigniﬁcant person, and it is in the best interests of all parties concerned that we remain humble an able to hear God no matter whom he chooses to speak through.
In 2 Samuel 12, God sent Nathan to bring a word of correction and judgement to David. Some of us may be inclined to believe that Nathan was able to correct David because he was a prophet and therefore had more authority, but if we examine the Bible closely, we will now that David was also a prophet, as well as being the Old Testament equivalent of an apostle. How do we know this? When blind Bartimaeus cried out for Jesus to have mercy on him and heal his blindness, how did he address Jesus? He called Jesus ‘“thou Son of David,.” He was not only recognizing Jesus as the true King of Israel, but also declaring that he believed the King could open blind eyes! It is then therefore evident that it was the anointing of the King which opened the blind eyes, and Jesus is known in the scripture as the apostle and high priest of our profession (Hebrews 3:1). Furthermore, if Christ’s role as savior comes by way of being the rightful king, and if we understand that the highest authority in Israel after God was the King, then David was higher in authority than Nathan. Also, let’s remember that Nathan was an Israelite and therefore a subject of the King. Yet, God sent him to correct his lord.
Therefore, we should understand that while we are given authority by God to oversee His people, we must also recognize God’s authority in them as well. Ephesians 4 tells us that God placed the ﬁve-fold ministry in the church for the perfecting of the saints , for the work of the ministry, and to build the body of Christ (Ephesians 4;12). Thus the function of each ofﬁce ministers to all the saints. The teacher, for example, is called to perfect and edify the apostle, even though the apostle is higher in authority.
We’ve said all this to make it clear that when a leader says “It’s not your place to say that to me,” it’s just pure PRIDE. Always remember that you’re a leader, not a master, and despite the fact that God put you in charge, He did so that you would serve Him and the ﬂock, not lord it over them (1 Peter 5:3). How many blessings have some of us forfeited because we failed to heed the counsel of God when it was given to us through someone whom we thought to be beneath us?
Over the past several years, the Lord has given me the opportunity to mentor a number of leaders, and a consistent tendency among them was that they abandoned humility as they accumulated accomplishments. In fact, I have found that some of them would begin to become proud after receiving a prophetic word that revealed any details of their call that sounded lofty. Some people can’t even handle a mere compliment, never mind a prophetic word that sounds good! Jesus Christ, who accomplished the redemption of man and the defeat of the devil, death, and hell, said that it was the Father in Him that did the works (John 14:10).
Humility isn’t having a low opinion of yourself, but rather having a right perception of yourself and of who God is. God may call you to greatness, but always remember that the greatness you might achieve is really His.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. (Psalm 71:16)
Have we gone in God’s strength, or our own? Numerous studies have shown that about 4% of new converts to Christianity remain in the faith for even one year. Is this indicative of having relied on God’s power, or on our own plans and ideas?
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much ﬁne gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. (Psalm 19:7-13)
How many of us, in our earthly wisdom, have decided to preach a gospel that is inoffensive, and have convinced ourselves that we will win people to Christ by skirting around the Law of God? One of the most presumptuous sins we have committed as leaders is abandonment of God’s Law in favor of “progressive” methods of evangelism. When the rich young ruler approached Jesus about eternal life, what did Jesus tell him? To keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17).
Was Jesus being “legalistic?” Not at all; rather, we must understand that to declare God’s Law, to make known his standards is the only way some will ever know that they fall short of His glory. After all, most people, despite whatever faults they have, consider themselves to be good people, even when their deeds are quite wicked. When we fail to remember the Law of God, we will inevitably begin to use other standards by which to judge ourselves, very often one such as comparing ourselves to others whose sins are more apparent (1 Timothy 5:24).
Another standard which many among us have adopted by way of the pride of man’s doctrine is the perverse teaching which practically reduces Biblical grace to licentiousness. In our mortal presumption, many of us who have chose to disregard God’s Law have taught that “it’s all by grace,” or “we all need some grace,” and we have come to use similar catch-phrases as excuses for sin, or as a way to lure unbelievers to a more “fun” Christianity.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be deﬁled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (Hebrews 12:14-17)
If we are to look diligently to ensure that we follow peace with all men and holiness, then a lifestyle characterized by excuses which allow us to shirk taking responsibility for our actions, thoughts, and words would clearly be an example of failing of the grace of God. What then is the grace of God? It is more than just mercy; in fact, in this context, it is deﬁned thus:
charis -- pronounced: khar’-ece from 5463. graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, ﬁgurative or spiritual; especially the divine inﬂuence upon the heart, and its reﬂection in the life; including gratitude) (Strong’s, 5485).
The grace of God, then is His divine, holy inﬂuence on our hearts AND its reﬂection in our lives. How then does one fail of God’s grace? When we do not humble ourselves and recognize that His word is to be obeyed, and we do not pursue His peace and holiness, then His inﬂuence will begin to cease to be reﬂected in our daily walk. Without humility, walking in grace is impossible:
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. (Proverbs 16:5-6)
tow`ebah -- pronounced: to-ay-baw’ or to`ebah to-ay-baw’ feminine active participle of 8581; properly, something disgusting (morally), i.e. (as noun) an abhorrence; especially idolatry or (concretely) an idol: KJV -- abominable (custom, thing), abomination.
God is disgusted by pride! Furthermore, the word tow’ebah here is used elsewhere to describe idolatry, bestiality and homosexuality. Therefore, those who walk in pride are as foul in God’s sight as idol worshippers, homosexuals, and those who have sex with beasts. If then, God ﬁnds someone disgusting, are they walking in grace? Obviously not. Can he have mercy upon them? Yes, but let us not confuse the two. We ought now to understand that humility enables us to receive grace, which leads to faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and therefore also enables us to receive sound doctrine. One of the key signs of an apostate people is their inability to endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:1-4) After all, there are only two kinds of doctrine mentioned in the Bible: sound doctrine, and doctrines of devils. (Timothy 4:1). The Bible also tells us clearly:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3)
Those who cannot bear to hear the whole truth of God’s word will inevitably look for (and ﬁnd) an abundance of teachers who will tell them what they want to hear, and this is a clear indicator of a lack of humility. Why? Because their pursuit of another “truth” that will be more to their liking is based on their self-will, the origin of which is always pride. The Bible tells us that Lucifer was perfect in all his ways, until his heart became lifted up with pride (Ezekiel 28:17). What did this pride lead to?
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Pride is always the root of self-will, and so if we walk by self-will we make of ourselves an abomination (Proverbs 16:5), and deny the grace of God. Does it stop there? No!
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:32-25)
When there is humility before God, there is unity, and not only is lack defeated, but our witness of Christ is accompanied by the power of God. In the very next chapter, two people who lied about their giving were killed by the Holy Spirit. They had tried to give the impression that they had given the entire proceeds from the sale of the property, when in fact they had kept some of it. This makes it clear that their motive was to appear to be more generous than they had actually been, and thus we know that there was some pride involved. Even as pride brings a guarantee that God’s punishment will come (Proverbs 16:5), humility is a key to divine intervention, turning aside the wrath of God:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin,and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Humility is required ﬁrst, because without it, prayer will go unheard (John 9:31), one will be unable to seek God’s face, and wickedness will remain, because pride itself is wicked.