Humility is a word that I, like many I'd imagine, struggle with. What is it to be humble? I always envision an impoverished monk in burlap with a rope belt meditating at a monastery. Or I envision someone who always has their eyes cast down, never wanting attention drawn to themselves. I don't think I'd be too far removed from the erroneous notions that most hold of what humility is. What if we were to consider that Jesus was perfectly humble? What if we pictured our same perfectly humble Jesus violently driving money changers out of the temple? What does this do to our notion of humility and why is it important?
Does it surprise us that submission and humility are linked? It shouldn't. Submission cannot occur without humility and both are required of us. We are repeatedly instructed to submit to God and to each other throughout scripture so humility then becomes less of a perplexing notion to leave unanswered and more of a critical component of our daily walk. True submission cannot occur without humility or with pride. Pride and humility are not compatible - they are polar opposites.
Even the core greek words from which they were translated are in complete opposition to each other. Pride comes from the greek word "huperephanos" in which the central greek word "huper" is to "place above, in the stead of, very chiefest, exceeding in". People with excessive pride seek to be placed above others, in the stead of others, in the chiefest positions.
Submit comes from the greek "hupotasso" in which the central root word is "hupo" which means "under, beneath, below, inferior position or condition, moderately". The greek words huper and hupo are direct opposites. People in submission (or walking in humility) place themselves in inferior positions or in positions of servitude purposefully and willfully. They walk in moderation, not the excess of the proud, they place themselves, in their minds and hearts, in service to others. Jesus modeled this throughout his entire ministry on earth and demonstrated it in full for his disciples when he stripped down and washed their feet, a job for a lowly servant, not the King of Kings, Co-creator of Existence, powerful and mighty Son of the living God.
James 4:6-10 says:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.
I Peter 5:5-7 states:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
From these, we can begin to see humility is important to God and that He is opposed to the proud. The greek for God’s resistance to the proud here comes from the word "antitassomai" which means to "range oneself against, to oppose". Core to this greek word is the word, "tasso", which means to "arrange in an orderly manner, assign, appoint determine, ordain and set". We begin to get the picture that God literally, sets Himself against, in the fashion of placing opposition in an orderly and determined manner, to those who, in their own thinking, are chiefest, think themselves above, desire to be shined upon or illuminated for attention’s sake. This extends to those who refuse others because of some perceived deficiency or flaw or lack of ability.
In contrast He gives grace, which entails His divine influence on our hearts and our lives, wellness, joy, favor, and benefit, to the humble – those who in their thinking are base, of lowly estate and degree. This should not be confused with people who think they are of no value or worth, but rather these are those who in the perspective of God’s majesty, might, grace, mercy, and eternal values, recognize the fact that no one has anything apart from what God has granted, given, or blessed us with and are eternally thankful and grateful. It is to these that God pours out His favor, influence, and blessing - His grace.
But as stated, submission and humility cannot exist within a heart that harbors pride. A further study into the greek for pride, "huperephanos", also links the root "huper" to greek words "phaino" and "phos". The word phaino is to lighten, as in spotlight, shine, to appear, to seem. Related to this word is the word phos, which means luminous. Do we not begin to see the character attributes of the angel of light in the study of pride? As love is the core and defining characteristic of our God, so is pride the defining and core characteristic of Satan. Because pride is such a satanic force in the lives of people, because it keeps people from acknowledging their need for God, because it tore heaven, and because it continues to destroy hearts and lives on earth, we can now understand why God says he will set Himself and arrange Himself in a very determined manner against those who harbor it. Would anyone really want the Creator of Existence, the Most Holy and Mighty God in determined opposition to them?
How do we overcome this deadly force? Lets go back to James 4 where the Word states “'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble’ therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” God gives us the answer to pride in our lives; submission to Him. Place yourself in submission to Him and pride won’t have rule in your life. Submit to his Word, submit to what He has instructed you to do, both in his Word and in your heart. Submit.
Further we are told to resist the devil. Resist here in the greek is a different word than the one used to show God's opposition to the proud. Here it is the word "anthistemi". This word further comes from two greek words "anti" and "histemi". The word anti is familiar to us in our own language. The word histemi means to stand, abide, appoint, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set up, stand by, stand forth, stand still, stand up. Instead of the armed, planned and determined opposition God puts forth against the proud, this is a digging in, a trenching in and establishing against assault. This is what we do when the enemy comes against us. Why? Because we are not omniscient. We do not always know which direction he will come from. So we dig in. We entrench. We brace for impact, like the Roman phalanx - shields up. He cannot penetrate this shield of faith. Ephesians 6:16 says ALL of his fiery darts are quenched by it. So he tries from another direction. Another tactic. Finances, God provides. Sickness, God heals. Relationships, Love overcomes.
When we do this, we know from the Word that the devil must flee. He must. He has no alternative. Why? Because he is a coward. He loves attacking the saints when they do not know the Word or their own method of delivance and protection. Remember, he prowls as a roaring lion, looking for the weaknesses. A lion does not hunt by running up to the herd, looking for the biggest animal and going head to head with it. Lions hunt by craft, by camoflauge, by getting attention away from themselves, by looking for the weaknesses and exploiting them in the weakest and easiest to catch. Satan is looking for the weaknesses in you to exploit. He hunts you by craft and camoflauge, by getting your eyes to look elsewhere than the Word, than Jesus. When we dig in, when we set our foundation in the Word and trench in and prepare to stand (resist) against him, the devil, despite even his own desires, will flee every time. But in order to effectively resist in this fashion, we must first be in full submission to God.
Further, according to 1 Peter 5, we are to be clothed with humility. The greek for this is the word "eckomboomai", which is to get dressed for work, to put on the apron, the work clothes, the appropriate apparel to get the job done. We are to put on humility in preparation of getting the job or work done. Also implied in this is clothing relating to station, identifying the individual. Today, an apron would identify a cook, a hardhat identifies a construction or plant worker, a uniform identifies law or military. Humility identifies God’s people. One cannot have true humility with self-seeking pride or without self-sacrificing love.
Humility, then, is a garment to be put on daily, a choice to be made. The greek for the word humble is "tapeinos" and implies a debased and cast down state. We are not cast down or debased by others, but we are depressing the flesh, casting it down ourselves. This is the conscious choice of the humble, and is what causes humility to become such a powerfully effective force in our lives. It is the true power of not being in chained to the whims of our own flesh, but in putting ourselves in submission to God, in whom all things are possible, in whom we are more than conquerors, in whom is the mightiest power of all heaven and earth, physical and spirit, seen and unseen. This is daily taking up our cross, crucifying and staking down the flesh, and following our Lord. It is not something forced upon people by others. The most down trodden person can still be overflowing with destructive pride and completely powerless in their situation. We choose to be humble, to put down our flesh for the sake of Christ and others. We daily choose to let the offenses of others raise our flesh up in indignation and defense or to find no footing or seed-bed in us by the determination to put our own flesh down.
We are to clothe ourselves with this humility, not to become stepping stones of the world or punching bags for the enemy, but so that we can truly rise up in power and effectiveness against the enemy, shaking the very kingdom of darkness around us, transforming the world and affecting the people that are within our sphere of influence. When we humble ourselves under God, he promises to exalt us and empower us to do the works that He created us for. It is in the power of humility and the state of submission to Him that we are truly free and truly mightiest in the Lord.