In a recent sermon, I was reminded of the true definition of humility. Although many understand humility as being “under” others (as in “under the thumb”), or willing to do whatever anyone else wants (i.e., subservient), that really is not the case. True humility is the recognition of both our great value and our great need. It is seeing ourselves for who we are as we stand before God as His creatures – gifted people utterly dependent upon Him for all things.
King David considers these ideas in Psalm 8. In one major section, his words note the “smallness” of mankind:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4 NASB)
Some may take these words as rhetorical, but David seems to be more reflective than that. He is looking into the heavens, where he spent many nights as a shepherd, and was honestly feeling irrelevant. In the full scope of all that God created, why would He bother with mankind? And more personally, why would He bother with a shepherd? Why would He bother with you? Or with me?
David recognizes that mankind has limitations, and in certain respects he is barely noticeable within the grandeur of the created order. Yet, as David reflects on the relationship between God and mankind, he is reminded of the biblical story. Mankind, in fact, may be small, but he is not a trivial being on a tiny planet in the cosmos.
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet…
In the first chapters of Genesis mankind is said to be made in “God’s image.” Mankind is the only being created with this divine imprint. Scripture makes a point throughout that neither angels, nor animals, nor any other created thing holds this same honor. Man is unique.
What does this have to do with humility? It reminds each of us of our great value. It also helps us to keep in perspective our great need. We must balance these realities to prevent pride on the one hand, and self-contempt on the other hand.
Let us each be prepared to come with humble expectation. Let us be balanced, knowing that we have much to learn from others, and that we also may have something to share with others. In other words, each of us has both great value and great need.
From You come my gifts and abilities. Help me to listen carefully during the conference that I might develop my gifts for Your glory and to serve others. Also help me to listen for opportunities to share my own journey in a way that will encourage those I meet. Amen.