Someone said, “Humility is the only virtue you can’t claim and keep.”
It’s a little frustrating for me given God’s call and command to be humble.
Jesus was the ultimate manifestation of humility. He told us that the life that God can bless is, in part, characterized by this great quality. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 NIV).
If we invite Jesus into our souls and seek to walk daily in and with his Spirit, his humble character will sprout and blossom in us over time as surely as all the other fruits of the Spirit.
“Humble, hungry and smart”
Patrick Lencioni is a leading thinker in the field of organizational health. He often writes and speaks in this space. We used Lencioni’s principles in the church I led, and we follow many of his ideas at Denison Ministries. It is a good model that I recommend.
Lencioni’s field manual for building a healthy team and organization is called The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. Check it out.
Perhaps his most popular book of a few years ago was called Death by encounter. Every pastor and church leader has felt this.
He wrote a follow-up book titled The Ultimate Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues. In this fable about leadership, Lencioni describes the best co-workers as those who are “humble, hungry, and smart.”
By “starved,” he means that good workers are eager to make a meaningful contribution. They are purpose driven.
By “smart” he means smart people. Good teammates develop personal emotional intelligence and social intelligence about others. They learn to get along with others. In a healthy way, they become self-aware while learning to constantly consider the needs and hopes of others, beginning with their closest partners.
“Humility” in this model extends to both these ideas of being self-aware and people-centered. Humility is sometimes difficult to define and measure in our lives. Even today, I realized that the opposite of humility is not just pride or arrogance. It can also be seen as grandiosity.
Beware of grandiosity
Grandiose is a guilty desire to be noticed, to get attention, to be seen as impressive, to be selfishly applauded and affirmed to build your ego. We can become addicted to affirmation. The Bible describes this when it says that there were people in the crowd and among the leaders who were attracted to Jesus but who were unwilling to come out openly and publicly with their trust in him. John says this about them: “For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43).
Here is a test you could use to see if proud grandiosity is growing in you instead of Christian humility. Do you find yourself gratuitous in your preaching, teaching, and conversations?
I learned this word in a preaching seminar with Dr. Joel Gregory at Truett Seminary in Baylor. To be “gratuitous” in preaching is to tell stories or make statements that draw attention to you rather than to Christ and the truth of God you seek to communicate.
I was guilty of this.
I also do it sometimes in conversations when I want people to notice me, or I want them to like me, or I want them to remember me. To be gratuitous in conversation is to speak or interrupt in a manner “not required by the circumstances: not necessary, proper, or warranted,” according to Webster’s Dictionary.
Let us pay attention to this so that attention, glory and praise remain appropriately focused on Jesus Christ. Remember this passage: “Likewise, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. Dress all of you in humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may raise you up in time. Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-6, italics added).
Peter struggled to develop his humility. This is why so many of us identify with him. I find it interesting that Peter was inspired to invite us to put all our anxiety in the hands of God right after this call to humility.
When we fear for our reputation, are unsure of our identity, and are concerned about being impressive and important, it’s time to pray. It is a time to remember and believe who Christ is, who he made us to be, and how blessed we are to be loved by him and invited to be his partner in the redemptive work he has done. still does in us and through us as servants of the church. .
“For we are co-workers in the service of God. . . .” (1 Corinthians 9:3)