A few weeks ago, I found this article on desiringgod.org. It’s all about how humble people aren’t what people think they are, and since I’ve always felt that way, I checked it out.
What I found was appalling, as it seemed to try to give the author some sort of biblical pass to be condescending by using out-of-context verses, paraphrasing and a misunderstanding of certain moments in the New Testament.
Bloom’s first point was that humble people “don’t think much of themselves,” instead choosing to focus on higher things. This ignores God’s humility entirely. To imply that God isn’t humble is simply unbiblical at best, but to say He’s humble by that definition implies that there’s something higher than God.
So it’s more accurate to say “Humble people have a healthy understanding of their place.” Sure, in the case of us humans, we’re sinful people in need of forgiveness. But we’re also a beautiful creation of God whom He loves and sent Christ to redeem.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Romans 12:3-8 ESV
While the author used verse 3 as an illustration of his definition of humility, reading further shows that it’s a call to understand humanity’s equality with one another, though God has made us all different.
His second point was that humble people “prefer windows to mirrors.” He was pretty inconsistent as to what this meant. He spoke about this meaning humble people point to God rather than themselves, then he put it in with a verse implying those windows are to others.
He says “humble people view other people as God’s marvelous image-bearers, windows to God’s glory, not as mirrors that enhance or diminish their own self-image.”
I agree that humble people should see everyone as God’s beautiful creation, but humble people, in their healthy understanding of who they are, have no problem seeing the successes or failures of others as a challenge to the way they do things. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse quoting this again, but…
““Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
Humble people are called to look at the speck in someone else’s eye and then say, “I wonder if anything is in my own eye” before doing anything else. So yes, seeing everything as a mirror is pride. But seeing nothing as a mirror is ignoring your own issues.
And I have a similar problem with his last point. “Humble people are offensive.” He says plenty about humble people saying things like they are and calling others out without hesitation, but mentions nothing about looking inwardly. He uses several passages to back up the humble man’s tendency to call out issues publicly, using the examples of Jesus talking to religious leaders and Paul rebuking Peter in Galatians. However, looking at the more public rebuke of individuals like those in the New Testament, and the context around those situations, we see that these people weren’t being publicly called out just for not living life like a Christian would.
Instead, public rebuke came in response to very public cases of hypocrisy. The Pharisees were always preaching one thing and condemning others for that one thing and yet acting in the very ways they were condemning.
And in Peter’s case,
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?””
Galatians 2:11-14 ESV
These cases of public hypocrisy needed a public response to show that the fault was with people and not with God.
Humble people, however, understand the order in which these things should take place. The article neglects to mention that a large part of humility is internal. It is using mirrors. It’s having the mindset in Matthew 7:1-5. It doesn’t ignore or condone the sins of others, but it makes sure it takes a long look in the mirror before addressing what’s happening outside the window. It sees the speck in someone else’s eye and checks his own before helping his brother. It’s understanding that all human beings are on the same playing field, that any struggle one person has might be your own struggle, and never justifies itself.
Jon Bloom’s humility tells the story of a man who doesn’t see himself as important, so he only looks outwardly and has no problem calling others out on their sin. But Jesus tells a very different story.
Yes, the glory of God is the primary lens through which we should see things. Humility is putting God and others before ourselves, in service and in love. But humility is also making a change in yourself before encouraging change in others. It’s knowing your importance as a child of God, but also knowing your many shortcomings as a human being. And it’s knowing that if we’re all on a level playing field, we should always examine ourselves before rebuking others. Just something to think about.