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2 When pride comes, so does shame,
but wisdom brings humility.
19 Better to be humble with the needy
than to divide plunder with the proud.
23 Pride lays people low,
but those of humble spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 11:2 is particularly worth our attention this week because of its connection with our memory versefor this series. “The word rendered humble is used only here. Its verb form is used in Micah 6:8 ‘to walk humbly with your God.’ Humble or ‘modest’ refers here to a person who does not overestimate himself or herself, that is, does not pretend to be more important than he or she is.” * But the word used in the other two proverbs also “means ‘humble’ or ‘lowly,’ the opposite of ‘proud’ or “arrogant.’” **
Lord Jesus, it’s hard when I don’t think the people around me value me as highly as I deserve. Weave into my psyche the reminder that you honor the humble. Amen.
I’m going to open up this one with some lyrics from the song “Humble” by musical comedy group The Lonely Island:
“Bar none, I am the most humble-est
Number one at the top of the humble list
My apple crumble is by far the most crumble-est
But I act like it tastes bad outta humbleness
The thing about me that’s so impressive
Is how infrequently I mention all of my successes
I pooh-pooh it when girls say that I should model
My belly’s full from all the pride I swallow”
This is funny, but it’s so close to how we actually view humility today. Reading historical context for Bible passages about humility, I find it amusing how often they point out that desiring humility was counter-cultural back then, as if it’s different today. Ask people today about humility and most people will say that it’s a virtue; but if you compare that to their actions, you’ll find that very often, what we actually value is the appearance of humility. We want to confess to little things that aren’t really flaws to make ourselves seem relatable without actually putting our reputations at risk. We give up just enough to claim the virtue of humbleness while not actually putting ourselves any lower.
I’ll confess, of the seven deadly sins, pride is the one I struggle with the most—by a pretty wide margin. I had thought of a number of amusing personal anecdotes I could have shared about pride coming before the fall, but all of them fell into the trap I detailed in the previous paragraph. I think it’s because I’m aware of my pride that I seek out opportunities to prove, to myself and others, that I’m actually humble. That’s why I felt the amusing anecdotes weren’t the right approach here. My struggle with pride goes several levels deep, with facades of humility and sometimes even facades of being honest about my pride.
I’ve found that the times I truly find humility—real humility, not the manufactured stuff I share on social media—are not times I’m seeking humility; they’re times I’m seeking knowledge, or experience. I play in the worship band for several of the COR campuses, and sometimes I can feel pretty good about my abilities. If I just focus on feeling more humble, that doesn’t do me any good. But when I see a video on YouTube of a 13-year-old girl with a cheap starter bass guitar who’s a better player than I will likely ever be in my life, that gives me some perspective about my own abilities. Let me be clear: the point is not to feel bad about being good at something. That’s not the point. The point is to realize that I still have a long way to go.
There’s a principle in management that I’ve seen be true in several places: A players hire A players; B players hire C players. In other words, people who know they’re not among the best will often surround themselves with people they can feel superior to. When I find myself knowingly seeking out people that I know I can feel superior to, that’s a major red flag. In those times, it’s best for me to actually seek out people that I know are better than me. I don’t like doing this. Oftentimes, I simply don’t. But if I truly want to be humble, that’s the kind of thing I need to be seeking out.
* William D. Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry, comments on Proverbs 11:2 in A Handbook on Proverbs. New York: United Bible Societies, p. 241.
** Ibid., p. 356 *** Ortberg, John, Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.