On Sunday I argued that being humble means that you think of yourself rightly. It means that your assessment of your worth matches your actual worth. Genesis helps us understand how we as human beings should understand our value.
Truths to Rightly Assess our Worth
First we were created. Just like the worth of a carpenter is infinitely more than the worth of his table, so, too, is God's worth infinitely above ours.
Second, humanity was created to stand at the very top of God's creation. No other work of God's creation was made in his image or with the ability to be inhabited by his infinite Spirit.
Third, we've destroyed our value by plunging ourselves headlong into sin. We've degraded ourselves to a despicable degree.
Fourth, God has no intention of leaving his image bearers in the depths of their sin but sent his Son to pull them out, clean them up, fix them, remake them, bring them into his family, make them co-heirs with his Son, and restore them to the position that he designed them to hold in the first place. Our future glory will be even greater than that original glory we were meant to have, for now we will also display God's glorious grace for all eternity!
All four of those truths must be understood rightly if we as human beings are ever going to properly understand our worth and therefore live humbly before God and others.
A Little More Specific
On Sunday, I stayed at a very general level—the level of humanity. We could take this thought a step further, a step toward the more specific, and apply it on a more personal level. The principle remains the same: Those who are humble think of themselves with sober judgment. That is, their conception of their importance and value matches their actual importance and value. This applies not only when we think of ourselves corporately as members of the human race but also when we think of ourselves as individuals.
Even before sin entered the world, it is clear that no single finite human being living alone is capable of putting the nature of God on display for the world to see. It wasn't good for Adam to be alone. That's because God, though one, is not alone. Just as he lives in relationship in the life of the Trinity, he created humanity to live in relationship too; thus God created Eve.
That means that Adam's individual value in putting the worth of God on display is not as great as Adam and Eve's collective value in putting the worth of God on display. When a man and his wife live in relationship with each other in such a way that the very nature of the Trinity is seen, then they better image forth God's nature than if Adam were to have remained the only human on the planet. Properly reflecting the glory of God is on the line when it comes to how husbands and wives relate to each other.
Adam and all individual human beings need to understand that about their worth. Even those individuals who have received the gift of singleness must understand that it's when God's people come together as a body that we better put God's glory on display than if we were to live alone in the desert all our lives.
This naturally leads to how the New Testament talks about the gifts of the Spirit. Though every single child of God is sealed and anointed by God's Spirit, not every single child of God has received the exact same gifts of the Spirit. We're not clones. Equality does not mean sameness. God loves diversity. The Spirit gives each believer gifts as he sees fit. Using the analogy of a body, Paul says that some of us are eyes, some of us are ears, and some of us are noses (1 Cor. 12:17). The point is that we use what the Spirit of God has particularly given us for the good of the whole.
This means that when we come to assessing our particular value as individuals, it's right to say things like, "I'm good at _____, and I'm not good at _____. I can contribute _____ to the body, but I need others to help me to _____." That is another part of what it means to be humble. Humble children of God see how God has put them together, understand what God has specifically entrusted to them, acknowledge the specific gifts that God's Spirit has given them, and are acutely aware of how they need others to complete in them what they themselves are lacking.
Prideful people don't acknowledge that while they may be a really good ear, they are pathetic when it comes to seeing (to use Paul's metaphor in 1 Cor. 12 again). And prideful people certainly don't celebrate this fact. Prideful hands become envious and competitive when interacting with people who are much better feet than they could ever be. Furthermore—let's assume the bride of Christ is left-handed—prideful right hands don't celebrate the fact that their left counterpart gets to do the writing while they are left holding the paper so it doesn't move. This is not so among the humble. God designed us to need each other "that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor. 12:25).
So after understanding who you are as a human being, the next question for you, believer, becomes, Do you understand who you are as an individual member of Christ's body? Do you rightly assess how God has sovereignly made you as one of his specific statues, or do you think more highly of yourself than you should? And are you capable of celebrating the fact that you, though perhaps an excellent nose, would run the body into a tree if you tried to do the job of an eye?
How Do We Know?
Answering that question would require another entire post. Suffice it now to say that when it comes to determining who you are, make sure you're listening to God and not deciding based on what you wish you were. And the beautiful thing is that we're not left figuring this out on our own. It is often true that others around us are much better at objectively recognizing if we make a better eye or a better ear. So get some guidance.
Once you've begun to understand how God has made you as an individual, will you embrace it or reject it? Will you fan those gifts into flame, or will you throw a wet blanket on them and try to start your own fire? Being humble means recognizing and accepting how God has made you, not making that decision for yourself. "Create your own identity" is an often-repeated mantra of our day. It has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. Humble people rejoice at discovering the specific role God has assigned to them in this drama called the history of the world, and they rejoice at seeing others living out to the fullest the roles that God has given to them. In fact, they give themselves to helping them carry out those roles. And there's no envy or rivalry or jostling for a different role. There's only joy that God would give us a part at all.
Oh, ICB, may God be merciful and grant us the gift of humility toward one another and before him under his mighty hand!
Grace and peace,