What Does it Mean to Humble Yourself in the Bible?

Aaron D'Anthony Brown

Contributing Author
Published: Jan 18, 2022
What Does it Mean to Humble Yourself in the Bible?

Our actions say a lot about our level of humility. Whether we have some or none, there’s always room for growth in the life of a sinner. Make the choice to humble yourself today.

Humility is one of those words that’s easy to use, but difficult to understand. A great many of us would claim to be humble without realizing what the word really entails. We point to ourselves and say, “Hey, I’m humble,” but the act of intentionally pointing to ourselves for attention or admiration is just the opposite.

In an age of tweets, hashtags, and selfies, our comprehension of humility has fallen to the wayside. The definition hasn’t changed, but the word has lost its significance to us as a society. However, humility remains important, especially to the believer in their walk with the Lord. We know this because the Bible has plenty to say about humility.

What exactly does Scripture say? We need to humble ourselves in order to honor God, and with humility comes various blessings. The word is either mentioned or referenced at least 100 times throughout the Good Book. And each time helps us build our understanding of the concept. 

After reviewing some of these verses we can answer the question, what does it mean to humble yourself in the Bible? What we will discover in these passages is how to add more humility to our own walks with God.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Humility and Humbling Oneself?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

One passage in Scripture where we read about humility comes courtesy of the Apostle Paul. In the Book of Philippians, he addresses the church of Philippi. More specifically, in this chapter of the book, Paul is talking about how believers ought to treat one another. He encourages his fellows to adopt an attitude like that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5). Jesus didn’t act out of selfish ambition, but rather to glorify God. He used His gifts of ministry and communication to bring people to God. Moreover, Jesus could have lived His life as a King, as God. Instead, Jesus chose to live as a less than common man, not above others, but a servant to them.

This is the humble mindset Paul desired for the church, the same mindset that’s important for believers today. In our efforts to be more like Christ, humility cannot be ignored.

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

This verse from Luke speaks more directly to the benefit of humbling ourselves before God, and a consequence if we do not. Luke recounts a parable on humility told by Jesus. The Lord spoke to a group of Pharisees, after visiting one of their homes. He explained to them how to orient themselves if invited to a wedding banquet. The parable symbolized how they should orient themselves in life - not above others. The Pharisees who were with Him had a natural tendency to sit in good places, instead of offering up their positions to others.

However, Jesus explained following a different idea. They would receive honor by giving up their positions to others, someone lower than them. Then they could be promoted somewhere higher and receive honor before others. Conversely, they could choose not to give up their good position, but when someone of higher renown appears, force them to forfeit what was theirs.

When we apply this logic to our own live4s, we receive honor by choosing to go low, instead of being forced. Don’t choose to be exalted of others, because we will surely, inevitably, be humbled.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3)

The Gospel of Matthew is replete with parables and sermons from Jesus. One very popular sermon is the Beatitudes. The aforementioned line from the sermon references an attitude of humility. From Jesus’ own words, we glean that God desires for His children to possess humility and to live it out. Being poor in spirit is living like Jesus. Likewise, being poor in spirit leads to a blessing. Which one? The Kingdom of Heaven.

This line references the salvation given to us by Jesus when we adopt that Christ-like humble spirit. What greater gift is there outside of salvation? If humility can grant us something so significant, we have no reason to dismiss it.

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19)

In order to fully understand the idea of humility, we need to understand the opposite idea - pride. Pride is what Jesus alludes to in the verse from the Book of Luke. Pride is exalting yourself above others, giving yourself an increased sense of worth and purpose. And to others, pride gives less.

Unsurprisingly, just as Jesus said that humility leads to Heaven, the opposite is true of pride. Such a mindset does not lead us to follow God, but rather ourselves and our own ambitions. The benefits and consequences of humility and pride are clear. We just have to choose.

The Reason for Humility

Humility is needed as a Christian in order to recognize the sovereignty of God. Humility says, “less of me and more of thee,” to the Lord. If we were not humble, we wouldn’t see or seek God for His character. Jesus recognized who God was and acted accordingly. He never lost sight. When we choose to not be humble, we do lose sight of God. Instead of Him being above us, we see Him as equal to or less than ourselves. A humble mindset will keep this from happening.

When we find ourselves in seasons of suffering, we’ll see the Father as a rock and fortress, not just a passive presence. Humility gives us the impetus for prayer, the reason for believing that God is greater. With humbleness, we can esteem God and others as better than ourselves, rather than the other way around.

Why Humility Is Vital for the Christian Walk

Would you consider yourself humble? Would the people who know you most? Most importantly, would God consider you humble? Asking ourselves these questions and being honest will help us determine what areas in our life need change, and what areas we can continue to build upon.

From what we know of humility, the word describes a mindset where we make ourselves small and make God big. Being humble means you spend less time thinking about yourself. This is how C.S.Lewis spoke of a humble man:

"He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all." -. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 8, “The Great Sin,”

Now that we have some passages to reference for humility, we should ask ourselves, how much of our own lives point back to us? Not that we shouldn’t be recognized for good deeds, but how much do we desire for our actions to point back to us instead of God?

How many selfies do we post and why do we post them? When we play games with others, how do you react after we win? How often do we expect people to express gratitude and what do we do if they don’t?

Our actions say a lot about our level of humility. Whether we have some or none, there’s always room for growth in the life of a sinner. Make the choice to humble yourself today.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Suwaree Tangbovornpichet

headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”

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