What is the True Definition of Humility?

Imagine you are a witness to the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples the night of His betrayal. Not long before, multitudes were praising Him shouting, “Hosanna!”

The disciples must have felt a surge of adrenaline! The Kingdom of Heaven certainly felt closer than it ever had before with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Suddenly, Jesus stands up from supper, picks up a towel, pours water into a basin, and begins to wash their feet. Can you imagine the look of shock on the disciples’ faces when Jesus, their Lord, stoops down to wash and dry their dirty feet?

The Mindset of Servanthood

What was Jesus doing and what can we learn from it? Is there a way for us to understand His mindset? Yes, there is.

Consider what Paul wrote:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
— Philippians 2:5-7

The Greek word for bondservant is doulos which means a slave, the lowest status on the social ladder, but a bondservant was a slave by choice. The word describes someone who willingly subjected themselves to the will of their master.

Keep in mind, Paul is talking about Jesus here.

Paul goes on to write in verse 8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” In other words, Jesus humbled Himself and willingly subjected Himself to the will of the Father, so that we in our wretched sinfulness could be saved.

Paul tells us that our mindset should be just like Christ’s. He is the example we are to follow!

Jesus laid out that example in Matthew 20:27-28 when He stated, “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Again, the same word for slave in Matthew 20:27 is the same word Paul used to describe Christ as a bondservant in Philippians 2:7, which is doulos. This is the example Jesus set for His followers.

In Romans 1:1, Paul then refers to himself as “a bondservant [doulos] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” Paul understood the example that his Lord had laid before him.

Paul knew that he was first and foremost a slave to Christ, then after that an apostle called by God. He had his priorities straight because he knew exactly who was Lord of his life.

The example that Jesus set and Paul followed can be summed up in one word: humility.

The Mindset of Humility

In his classic book titled, Humility, Andrew Murray writes:

When the creature realizes that this is a place of honor, and consents to be, with his will, his mind, and his affections, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature and yielding to God His place.
— Andrew Murray

I love that simple definition of humility!

We need to acknowledge the truth of our position that we were created by God, purchased by the blood of Christ, and subject to His authority alone. In doing so, we yield to God His rightful place in our lives.

Jesus said in John 13:14-15, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”

Is Jesus your Lord? Then follow His example and serve Him by serving one another with humility and love.

What is the true definition of humility? It's Jesus.


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