Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (KJV, Matthew 5:5-9)
Humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Rather than, "Me first," humility allows us to say, "No, you first, my friend." Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.
Friendships and marriages are dissolved over angry words. Resentments divide families and co-workers. Prejudice separates race from race and religion from religion. Reputations are destroyed by malicious gossip. Greed puts enmity between rich and poor. Wars are fought over arrogant assertions.
Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. Why do qualities such as courtesy, patience and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility dissipates anger and heals old wounds. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God's people. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the arrogant power-seeker.
Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all persons. Some would consider humility to be a psychological malady that interferes with "success." However, wealth, power or status gained at the expense of others brings only anxiety -- never peace and love.
Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it. (NAS, Proverbs 15:17)
Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. (NIV, Proverbs 16:8)
It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. (NAS, Proverbs 16:19)
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (NIV, Proverbs 16:32)
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. (NIV, Proverbs 17:1)
The Humble Demeanor
We should maintain an attitude of deference toward both God and other persons. Wisdom cannot be found or practiced through arrogance or anger. As servants of God, we must respect all of God's creation, including our fellow human beings.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. (NIV, Proverbs 27:1-2)
When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the falseness of the treacherous will destroy them. (NAS, Proverbs 11:2-3)
Humility means putting God and other persons ahead of our own selfish interests. Humility comes with the knowledge that God's creation as a whole transcends our own narrow interests. As with other aspects of wisdom, humility will gain us much more than we sacrifice.
Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. (NIV, Proverbs 22:4)
"But the greatest among you shall be your servant. "And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (NAS, Matthew 23:11-12)
And [Jesus] called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (NAS, Matthew 18:2-4)
The Golden Rule
Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (NIV, Luke 6:31-35)
The Golden Rule, spoken by Jesus, is possibly the best known quote from the Bible, and contains a lot of wisdom in one short sentence. If we wish to be loved, we must first give love. If we wish to be respected, we must respect all persons, even those we despise. If we wish to be fulfilled in our lives, we must share generously with others.
Talk and Gossip
Arrogant words inflame prejudice and hatred, but humble speech soothes. Words make or break human relationships. Words can make war or make peace. The words we say or write have tremendous power for good or evil. We should be as careful with our words as we would be with any other "weapon."
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (NIV, Proverbs 15:1-2)
"The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." (NAS, Matthew 12:35-37)
Gossip is an act of hostility intended to harm someone's reputation. We must avoid the temptation to misrepresent someone's character or actions as an act of revenge or prejudice.
An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (TLB, Proverbs 16:28)
Self-righteousness is one of the hardest sins to avoid because it is so much easier to see other peoples faults than to see our own faults. Rather than look for faults in others, we should look for the good in others and try to correct the faults within ourselves. Jesus' comical parable of a person with a board in his eye trying to see to remove a speck from another's eye reminds us that we probably have bigger faults within ourselves (including self-righteousness) than the faults we would criticize in others:
"Don't criticize, and then you won't be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? Should you say, 'Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,' when you can't even see because of the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother. (TLB, Matthew 7:1-5)
Don't criticize and speak evil about each other, dear brothers. If you do, you will be fighting against God's law of loving one another, declaring it is wrong. But your job is not to decide whether this law is right or wrong, but to obey it. Only he who made the law can rightly judge among us. He alone decides to save us or destroy. So what right do you have to judge or criticize others? (TLB, James 4:11-12)
We should not infer that criminal activity should go unrestrained or unpunished: the laws of Moses had strong sanctions for criminal acts, and the Bible strongly supports civil governments. (See the section on Government.) However, we are reminded that judgment is reserved for God and we should concentrate on correcting our own faults rather than criticizing others for their faults.
Anger and Revenge
No one makes us angry. Anger is our own emotional response to some action or event. More often than not, our angry feelings are based on a misinterpretation of what someone said or did. Expressing anger tends to prolong and reinforce our anger rather than purge it. Angry words and actions are much more likely to escalate hostilities and block communication than to solve a problem. Whether between parent and child, spouses, friends, or nations, expressions of anger divide us and drive us toward open hostility.
It is all too easy to react to life's annoyances and disappointments with anger. It is far more challenging, but much better, to react with understanding and empathy. In this way, we can quickly settle disputes and avoid turning minor incidents into major battles. The humble demeanor is a perfect tool for avoiding disputes and hard feelings.
A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back. (NAS, Proverbs 29:11)
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (NIV, James 1:19-20)
Holding a grudge can consume us with hatred, blocking out all enjoyment of life. A grudge clouds our judgment and may lead us to an act of revenge that can never be undone.
"'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV, Leviticus 19:18)
An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. (NIV, Proverbs 29:22)
Bearing a grudge and seeking revenge are never appropriate responses to a perceived wrong. A grudge destroys the grudge-holder with bitterness; revenge only escalates hostilities. Jesus told us we must reconcile with our adversaries, forgive their transgressions, and let go of the anger that may tempt us to commit an act of revenge:
"Under the laws of Moses the rule was, 'If you murder, you must die.' But I have added to that rule and tell you that if you are only angry, even in your own home, you are in danger of judgment! If you call your friend an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse him, you are in danger of the fires of hell. (TLB, Matthew 5:21-22)
Returning love for hatred can often cool the fires of anger. It is very difficult not to respond to anger with even more anger. However, when we respond to anger with empathy and love, we can often break the cycle of hatred and convert even our enemies into friends. Jesus gave us the unique command to love even our enemies:
"There is a saying, 'Love your friends and hate your enemies.' But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (TLB, Matthew 5:43-48)
By humility we acknowledge that God created us for his purposes and not for our self-glorification. By humility we acknowledge the dignity of all God's people. By humility we cool the angry passions of others. By humility we can turn enemies into friends.
A humble demeanor is not a denial of our worth as individuals. Rather, it is the tool that allows us, insofar as possible, to be on good terms with all persons.