Humilty - false or true
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NIV)
Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. (Colossians 2:18, NIV)
We all agree that pride is bad and humility good. Pride is off-putting to others and disgusting to God. Religious pride is particularly horrific. By contrast, as we see in the first quote above, humility is an essential part of godliness.
But in our desire to be humble, we must also take care to get our understanding of humility right - for, as with so many things, we can unthinkingly drink in a definition deriving more from our culture than from the Bible.
In a society that denies absolute truth, the person who’s hesitant in stating Christian truth is seen as humble, while a person who is confident and assertive about it is seen as proud. You just can’t say “We know the truth!” without being thought cocky.
Of course, we do have to admit that each of us has the capacity to get the wrong end of the stick; moreover, there are some mysteries which God has not revealed to us. In such cases, a proper humility about our knowledge is essential.
But the glorious truth is that, because God has made Himself known in Christ, there is a very great deal we can know, and do know. We need show no hesitation in speaking of those.
It’s striking that in the very same letter (Colossians), Paul teaches both humility in our dealings with one another, and is unafraid to denounce the impressive teachers troubling the church at Colossae as “unspiritual”, and their teachings as “hollow”. Some would say Paul is being proud, or over-assertive to say this about people. On the contrary, it is precisely because Paul takes God at His word and believes Him that he can have no truck with the false teachers. His very humility - trusting God’s revelation - leads him to be assertive.
This confusion about what real humility is no new problem. You may know G K Chesterton’s famous remarks, from his book Orthodoxy, back in 1908:
“But 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… we are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. ”
Humility does not consist in being shy about what God has made known!
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