FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 21
GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS
Gentleness, also known as humility, is a subject about which the world has a good bit to say but most of it is not from the Christian’s world view.
Consider the song “It’s hard to be humble” … I will quote some cleaned up lyrics for you if you don’t know this song from the late 70s.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a heck of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.
C. S. Lewis says that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And someone aptly said that “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”
What does Scripture say?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
In Scripture, the Greek word for gentleness (humility) is Prautas. It is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”. Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” This is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.
Its opposite is aggressiveness, arrogance, and boastfulness and the world’s counterfeit is inferiority; being self-absorbed and self-consciousness.
When we think of gentleness or humility, we sometimes think of meekness which sounds like weakness … picturing someone who is rather milque-toast in nature. However, that is not at all the scriptural view of either meekness or humility.
Meekness is the strength to refrain from taking part in a fight that you know you could win, or from making a point about which there could be no question, in order to prevent the damage that otherwise would be done.
Consider Moses the “in charge” leader bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In Numbers 12, God stood by him when Aaron and Miriam grumbled about his marriage to a Cushite woman, God calling them aside and saying:
“Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (NIV)
After this, the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy and Aaron pleaded with Moses to seek God for healing for their sister. Moses didn’t respond that Aaron and Miriam deserved what they got and he did not have an “I’m more important than you” attitude. Instead, he pleaded with God on Miriam’s behalf and God healed her after 7 days.
Clearly Moses had access to the ear of the Lord. He was powerful and knew that God stood by him. But the verse that is most telling about Moses comes before this story … it is Numbers 12:3 which says:
“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (NIV)
Moses was humble –he was meek – he was gentle – and God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings. See Psalm 147:5-6:
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)
Remember that the whole point of the Fruit of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Therefore, we need to consider how Jesus responded to situations.
In Matthew 11:20 we read that Jesus was “humble in heart” (Matt 11:29). In other words, Jesus was conscientiously following the Father’s plan for his earthly life rather than his own earthly desires. This is consistent with his prayer in the Garden found in Luke 22:42:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments for a number of reasons.
First, with respect to our vertical relationship between God and man, humility goes hand in hand with obedience. The one who is humble will follow God’s direction and will honor the plan that God has for his life.
Second, with respect to our horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures in this world, a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people.
It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
How does this apply to my daily life?
Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth. Theologian J. I. Packer says:
“Humility in Scripture means, not pretending to be worthless and refusing positions of responsibility, but knowing and keeping the place God has appointed for one. Being humble is a matter of holding on to God’s arrangement, whether it means the high exposure of leadership or the obscurity of subservience.”
In other words, humility affirms the inherent worth of all persons. We should exhibit a humble attitude whether we are the president or the janitor. Our title or position does not matter – humility is expected if we are to grow in Christ Jesus.
The humble person has proper deference toward both God and others. Our humility rests on a sense of our own comparative lack of value and honor in relation to God and to others. Paul implies this rule when he says in Romans 12:3 that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.
The humble woman will refuse to glory in any good that she has or does but rather will give all glory to God.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake”
This week, look for times when you can exhibit a gentle, humble spirit towards others. Imitate Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let this fruit grow in your heart, mind, soul and life!
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.