Humility toward Others

“Cry loudly, do not hold back;
Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:1–9a NASB)

It has been said that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. When God calls his people to humble themselves, it is not merely before him and his authority, though that is where it begins. Godly humility results in humbling ourselves before others once we humble ourselves before God the Father. We cannot say we rightly see ourselves in submission to God the Father if we do not see also the imago Dei – God’s image – in others, even the oppressed, the hungry, the naked.

The fast God calls for in Isaiah 58 is an act that is birthed from an attitude, a posture of humility before God and consequent care and concern for fellow humans, people who are hurting, in need, and under-resourced.

The church has been at its best when it has not lorded power over others but humbly served them, showing the way and the love and the humility of God become flesh. Jesus cast a vision for the care his followers were to have for those in need when he said that the King will invite to inherit the Kingdom those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, invited in the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and the imprisoned.

The coherence of seeing ourselves the way God does includes seeing others in need the way God does also, literally loving our neighbor as ourselves. Pride is in opposition to this, as pride elevates self above others and thus distorts God’s own teaching that all are in equal need of his grace and mercy. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

Wayne Stapleton is the NAB VP of Cross-Cultural Engagement and Emerging Leader Engagement.