by Julie Zine Coleman
“Now Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth…” Numbers 12:3
There it was, in black and white, posted on the high school music director’s door: my name at the top of Sound of Music‘s cast list. Maria: Julie Zine. I could hardly wait to get home and share the awesome news. Mom was thrilled. But when I told my dad, his response was less than enthusiastic. “How are you ever going to pull that off?” he moaned.
I was crushed. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already held big parts in school plays. The choir director thought my voice good enough to handle several solo parts. Why didn’t Dad think I could do this? Later, I again approached him and demanded: Why didn’t he believe in me?
Dad smiled sheepishly. “I just want to keep you from getting a big head,” he confessed. “I want you to be humble.”
My dad was a good father, and I appreciated his concern for my character. Humility is important and most desirable. But I think my dad had the wrong idea of what humility truly is, at least from a biblical point of view. It’s not about thinking less of who we are.
We can get a better idea of humility from the leadership example of Moses. It wasn’t a position he sought after or even ever wanted. But God called Moses to lead his people out of slavery and into the Promised Land.
As he stood before the burning bush, Moses resisted God’s call. Who am I, asked he, to be the deliverer for the Hebrews? They won’t have anything to do with me! I have never been eloquent. I’m obviously not the man for the job. Pick someone else, God, please!
Didn’t any of that self-abasement and degradation qualify as humility? Apparently not. Humility is a good thing; God loves the humble. But Moses’ qualms about his qualifications did not please God one bit.
The job was as difficult as Moses had imagined and then some. When Pharaoh finally released the Hebrew slaves, the desert in which they traveled was a harsh, inhospitable environment. The people themselves were hard-hearted and stiff-necked, frequently complaining, ever-distrusting of God and His appointed leader. Eventually even his own family members spoke against him, demanding a bigger part of the leadership action. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” they questioned. “Has He not spoken through us as well?” (Numbers 12:2 NASB).
God immediately responded to their rebellion and pride with an angry rebuke. As the cloud of his glory dissipated, Moses’ sister Miriam found herself covered in leprosy. Most leaders at that point would likely have felt validated and somewhat satisfied to see a threat to their leadership and power being squelched by God in such dramatic fashion.
But Moses cried out to the Lord, “Oh God, heal her, I pray!”(Numbers 12:13 NASB).
Even when threatened by his family’s desire to take him down a peg, Moses’ concern was not for himself. It was for those he loved. Putting aside any self-interest or indignant response, Moses prayed for his sister’s restoration. And God called him the humblest man on the earth.
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”
Jesus Christ was our ultimate example in godly humility. He did not regard His equality with God something to tightly clutch, but instead forfeited power and privilege for servanthood. His service ultimately led to a terrible death on the cross. Christ’s humility was not about self-abasement. It was in a willing sacrifice, generously given in the interest of those he loved. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Somewhere along the way, we in the 21st century have gotten the idea that humility involves self-depreciation, a devaluing of ourselves, deciding that others are better than us. But you won’t find it defined that way in the Bible. Biblical humility is a choice to treat the needs and interests of those around us as more important than our own. It is a decision to go with God’s agenda and not ours. It’s really part of what it means to die to self.
And in the end, in looking past our own noses, we will find ourselves closer to God and ironically more fulfilled than ever before. We will have gotten ourselves out of the way and become more and more yielded to the Spirit. And in return, God honors the humble.
Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:6
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
Join the conversation: What examples have you seen in people you know practicing biblical humility?