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What is the root virtue? Humility

Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.
     ~ Andrew Murray

But [Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:7-8

Humility is essential
Andrew Murray gives it to you straight: 
If you’re not growing in virtue,
it’s because you’re lacking in humility. Humility by Andrew Murray

Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.

Jesus’ humility
What was one of Jesus’ most obvious characteristics? Humility.
(Murray says it is his chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer”; I’m still pondering that.)

Jesus came to do God’s will. To speak God’s words. He emptied himself and became man. The Son of God took the form of a servant.

So, Murray’s logic goes, if humility is “the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus,” then our spiritual health “will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first, too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else.”

Jesus’ statements of humility (not to mention his actions!) are numerous, including:

  • “The Son can do nothing of his own accord” (John 5:19)
  • “I can do nothing on my own…I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30)
  • “I do not receive glory from people” (John 5:41)
  • “I have come…not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38)
  • “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16)
  • “I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true” (John 7:28)
  • “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28)
  • “I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:50)
  • “The word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:24)

How to be humble
But we can’t even be humble on our own. We have to be in Christ (Philippians 2:5). Our humility must serve a higher purpose:

Our humility before God has no value, but as it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow-men.

How can we know if we’re humble before God? The proof is in our humility towards men.

Murray says humility is often wrongly associated with preoccupation with how awful our sins are. But it’s not knowledge of our sins that keep us humble but God’s grace covering our sins. Because thinking about our sins is still thinking about ourselves. We need to get our mind off ourselves and onto God. “Where God is all, self is nothing.”

Being occupied with self, even amid the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self.

…Not to be occupied with thy sin, but to be occupied with God, brings deliverance from self.

Faith and humility
Murray next explains how faith and humility are connected.

Is it [faith] not the confession of nothingness and helplessness, the surrender and the waiting to let God work? Is it not in itself the most humbling thing there can be, the acceptance of our place as dependents, who can claim or get or do nothing but what grace bestows?!

Humility is depending, waiting, on the gifts of grace from God, instead of from self.

Let our one desire and our fervent prayer be, to be humbled with Him and like Him; let us accept gladly whatever can humble us before God or men; -- this alone is the path to the glory of God.

What can motivate us to want to do this? To be willing to accept whatever it takes to die to self?

Paul found out. He gladly accepted weakness and the humiliation it brought so the grace of the Lord could be better seen.

Instead of simply enduring it, he most gladly gloried in it; instead of asking for deliverance, he took pleasure in it. He had learned that the place of humiliation is the place of blessing, of power, of joy.

There was only One motivation for him strong enough. And only One for us:

And what will it be that brings us there? That which brought Paul there -- a new revelation of the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the presence of God can reveal and expel self.

Just as pride is more dangerous and nearer than we think, so is the grace for humility. And God’s filling when he finds us empty.

Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.

As we clear out the ugliness of our pride, may we model the beauty of the Lamb of God’s humility.

* * *

Where do you rank yourself on the humility scale?
(And is that a trick question???)

If you’d like to read Humility, you can download it as a free eBook at


Barbara H. said...

This is a hard one because the more we concentrate on it, it seems, the farther we are from it because we're still preoccupied with self. Lewis had a quote about the humble man not thinking of himself much at all. I like the quotes about Jesus' humility -- I think beholding Him in that aspect is probably the best way of being changed into His image.

Bobbi said...

I'm currently reading "HUMILITY, true greatness" by CJ's interesting to compare since I haven't read this one! Thanks!

Craig said...

I think I agree, humility is the root virtue. I also noticed your Book Study. The two dovetail – in a God kind of way. I actually wrote a book proposal and a few chapters about the steps Paul taught the Philippians on Contentment, step number one is humility. Without this the others don’t count. So this post today, plus your Book Study, plus your way of drawing out and emphasizing the meat of the book by Andrew Murray (and the others) has me checking my humility – and finding that it’s been wanting lately. Not that I’ve been in any way arrogant. But more the sneaky kind, being offended, feeling ignored, that sort of thing. So off I go, to attitude changing prayer, because of reading your words. Humble thanks. God Bless.

bekahcubed said...

I think pride is probably my most pervasive besetting sin. I like to think like Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice that "Pride, where there is a true superiority of mind, is always in good measure." But that's simply NOT true. Jesus Himself, who was in all ways superior to not just me but everyone, chose humility. Oh that I might humble myself under his mighty hand!

Thanks for this thought-provoking, repentance-provoking post.


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