You know those word association exercises like, “What’s the first word that comes to your mind when I say ‘tree?'” I rather doubt that “humble” would be the first word to come to mind for very many people if someone says “God.” Maybe there would be a lot who would say, “Almighty,” or “Jesus,” or “Heaven.” I wonder where “humble” would rank on the list.
I’m pretty sure the associated responses would change if the starting word were the name “Jesus.” But I still don’t think “humble” would rank among the top five answers. Nonetheless, if ever there has been a humble Person, God is the most humble Being ever. After all, it can be argued that the lower someone places himself in comparison to his rightful station, the more he has humbled himself. And no being who has ever existed has ever voluntarily lowered his or her estate more than has God in the act of becoming human.
A Winsome Characteristic
I would think that, for the unbeliever or for the timid, the humility of God would be an unexpected and attractive attribute. The Almighty, the Sovereign Ruler over all creation, the Holy One–His glory is so great that even angels avert their eyes out of respect. (Isaiah 6:2) His splendor is so magnificent that the apostle John said, “When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead.” (Revelation 1:17)
This perfect One who lives in a realm devoid of sin, devoid of anything impure—it is amazing enough that such a perfect One as God will condescend to live among humans. (Ezekiel 37:27) How much more wondrous that God Himself—who has no limitations except to always be and to act consistently with His own character—should actually become a human being! Philippians 2:5-8 describes this wonder when it says,
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!
Jesus Christ—Himself God—humbled Himself, not only by yielding the use of His divine rights and power to become human, but also by become a servant to other humans. (Mark 10:45) And as if that were low enough, Christ humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death! That is shocking! Death is degrading because death is inextricably tied to sin, not to holy perfection. (Romans 5:12) Contrary to what most people say, death is not natural. It is only the result of sin (Romans 6:23) and of a broken relationship with the Ever-Living One.
How much more self-effacing could God be? Well, He is humbler still! The death He died, He died to sin (Romans 6:10), and yet not His own sin, for God is sinless. (Hebrews 4:15) And the death He freely submitted Himself to was a humiliating death. So Jesus Christ, the Son of God both humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be humiliated in the process. And He did it all for love, as a pure and holy sacrifice, acceptable as a substitute for all our sin. (Hebrews 10:10)
Attracted to Arrogance, or Attracted to Humility?
Doesn’t God’s humility appeal to the mind and to the heart? Who of us is attracted to arrogance? Arrogance is such an ugly trait, even among those who otherwise possess praiseworthy traits or among those who otherwise have accomplished great achievements. Hubris is such an unbecoming characteristic. But God—who created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them—He has not behaved arrogantly or proudly. He has humbled Himself on our behalf.
Let us draw near to Him, that He may draw near to us! (Hebrews 10:22; Isaiah 59:2)