In a world where humility is on the decline, we need it more than ever.
"It’s humbling.” The owner of a small business was relating to me his feelings about the rapidly unfolding COVID-19 crisis. We had just met, striking up a conversation while waiting for our appointments. He told me he had around 70 employees in his manufacturing company and he was scrambling to keep ahead of events. This was in the early days of the virus’ impact across the United States, and lockdowns were not yet in place. This worried businessman was struggling to digest a barrage of national, state, and local guidelines affecting how his business would be able to operate in the new pandemic conditions. He was writing and rewriting company policies, making sure that his company would be in compliance with a raft of new regulations, all while grappling with the challenge of keeping his employees safe and protected. His business was not one of those deemed “essential,” and very few of his employees could telecommute, so the future was troubling to him.
Through it all, I was struck by his comment: “It’s humbling.” As much as I felt concerned for this man’s situation, I couldn’t help but be impressed by his attitude. He was truly sobered. He was expressing his response in a way that demonstrated his deep and profound recognition that he didn’t have all the answers—and that he would need to seek help beyond himself.
We don’t hear much about humility these days. We don’t applaud the humble; we praise the arrogant. All too often, we fall in line with the society around us, pumping into our children the message that being sure of ourselves and self-confident is the real key to success in life. One radical slice of society has even adopted the word “pride” as its calling card, as though arrogance and audacity are qualities to be admired.
When King Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem, he prayed that God would intervene for His people when they faced calamity. God’s response to Solomon may be one of the most beautiful and encouraging passages in the whole Bible, promising that “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Do we approach God with humility when we cry out for help?
Jesus Christ taught us the value of humility. “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Our Savior was the perfect example of humility, even to His death. “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” (Philippians 2:8). Humility is not just some sentimental nicety or way of speaking; it is a way of life. And God notices. The Apostle James quoted one of Solomon’s proverbs, reminding us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; cf. 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34).
Humility is one of the foundational virtues of the converted Christian (Colossians 3:12; Titus 3:2). It shapes the way we see ourselves and our place in the universe. It must be at the heart of our relationship with our Creator—especially in times of distress. Whether you are a business owner responsible for the livelihoods of many employees, a parent responsible for the safety and growth of your children, or a worker struggling to make ends meet in a time of economic chaos, you have your share of God-given responsibilities. Yet the most important responsibility of all is to acknowledge, “I must do my part, but it is God who is in charge, whom I must love and obey.”
Now, more than ever, is the time for humility.