Here are some thoughts on how God values humility and what it looks like, based on 1 Peter 5:5-6:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Humility isn’t pretending that we’re unworthy because it’s the spiritual thing to do; it’s recognizing that we’re unworthy because it’s simply true. We are sinners who deserve judgment and don’t deserve God’s grace.
Trevin Wax says, “Hell is full of people who think they deserve heaven. Heaven is full of people who know they deserve hell.”
The prodigal son left in pride and returned in humility. After he lost everything, he decided to go back and say to his father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:19). His father ran to him and threw his arms around him. That’s how God responds to humility.
Our True Condition
Pride pushes us away from God; humility draws us toward God. By choosing humility, we agree with God about our true condition and our true need for Christ.
We need Christ today just as much as we did the day we came to faith in Him. That’s a humbling truth we should never forget. No matter how self-sufficient we imagine ourselves to be, we are all perpetually needy.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Do we want God’s opposition or do we want His grace? According to this verse, acting proudly is like wearing a sign before God that says “go ahead and oppose me.” That’s a prayer He’s certain to answer. And the last person in the universe I want to oppose me is God!
Humility wears the sign “give me grace,” which is a prayer God is always happy to answer.
While pride twists and destroys us, humility preserves and protects us. Every day, every hour, often unconsciously, we choose either to humble ourselves or to be proud. Since pride tends to be our default condition, humility requires deliberate, intentional action.
We’re told to “clothe ourselves with humility toward one another.” Your clothes don’t magically appear on your body. You have to choose to put them on, and actually follow through. Humility won’t magically happen—you need to choose to take the time and effort to clothe yourself with humility.
A Test of Humility
For me, a major test of humility is how I treat my wife and also those in positions of service I encounter throughout my day, such as meal servers and gas station attendants and those who work at our ministry. A couple of weeks ago while I was traveling, it included hotel staff and flight attendants and the young guys driving me to the churches and conferences I was speaking at.
Even when we’re tired, how we treat those who serve us, and the respect we show them, is a test of humility and Christlikeness.
Speaking now specifically to men—for those of us who are married, our wives do so much for us and for our families. Even when you come home exhausted, still making an effort to serve your wife is huge. So ask her how her day was, genuinely listening, and help her by doing something for her. Take time with your kids by listening to them, praying with them, and reading Scripture and Bible-based stories. Those things are precious. Serving them that way will mean the world to them, and in the long run to you also.
So as I was first writing this, while I was out of town, I was thinking and praying about what more I can do to serve my wife, and resolving to do it. (In fact, I did one small thing; I stopped to order flowers to be delivered, with a note that the occasion was “just because you’re you, and I love you so much.”)
The Stupidity of Pride, the Happiness of Humility
Here’s one major take-away for me from God’s Word about pride and humility in 1 Peter 5 and elsewhere: Being proud isn’t just wrong, it’s stupid. We’ll pay a terrible price for it, in damaged relationships and other ways. Being humble isn’t just right; it’s smart. It will not only please God and others, but it will also pay off for us, we’ll be happier and more at peace knowing God is using us to serve others.
If we don’t humble ourselves, God will humble us. If we do humble ourselves, “God will lift us up, in due time.”
Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples, said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
I’m praying that God will daily show me and all of us ways to serve those who serve us.
“They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.” —John Flavel
“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” —God (Isaiah 66:2)