The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness, and absence of self. The Greek word translated “humility” in Colossians 3:12 and elsewhere literally means “lowliness of mind,” so we see that humility is a heart attitude, not merely an outward demeanor. One may put on an outward show of humility but still have a heart full of pride and arrogance. Jesus said that those who are “poor in spirit” would have the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Being poor in spirit means that only those who admit to an absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. Therefore, humility is a prerequisite for the Christian.
When we come to Christ as sinners, we must come in humility. We acknowledge that we are paupers and beggars who come with nothing to offer Him but our sin and our need for salvation. We recognize our lack of merit and our complete inability to save ourselves. Then when He offers the grace and mercy of God, we accept it in humble gratitude and commit our lives to Him and to others. We “die to self” so that we can live as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We never forget that He has exchanged our worthlessness for His infinite worth, and our sin for His righteousness. The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). That is true humility.
Biblical humility is not only necessary to enter the kingdom, it is also necessary to be great in the kingdom (Matthew 20:26-27). Here Jesus is our model. Just as He did not come to be served, but to serve, so must we commit ourselves to serving others, considering their interests above our own (Philippians 2:3). This attitude precludes selfish ambition, conceit, and the strife that comes with self-justification and self-defense. Jesus was not ashamed to humble Himself as a servant (John 13:1-16), even to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). In His humility, He was always obedient to the Father and so should the humble Christian be willing to put aside all selfishness and submit in obedience to God and His Word. True humility produces godliness, contentment, and security.
God has promised to give grace to the humble, while He opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). Therefore, we must confess and put away pride. If we exalt ourselves, we place ourselves in opposition to God who will, in His grace and for our own good, humble us. But if we humble ourselves, God gives us more grace and exalts us (Luke 14:11). Along with Jesus, Paul is also to be our example of humility. In spite of the great gifts and understanding he had received, Paul saw himself as the “least of the apostles” and the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:9). Like Paul, the truly humble will glory in the grace of God and in the cross, not in self-righteousness (Philippians 3:3-9).