This is the first post of a seven part series on manhood. The series is called Manspirations and the intent is to aim the spotlight of Scripture on the life of a man to determine how a man should live once redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
In 1 Peter, Peter writes to Christian exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These Christians were enduring persecution and Peter intended to urge the importance of perseverance in the midst of trial. Peter encourages them in their humiliation, their suffering. As the Romans oppressed them, Peter reminds the exiles not to put their hope in circumstance but in the hope of Christ. He even tells them to submit to the authorities, to choose submission over pride.
Pride is a tricky word. Some people mean dignity when they say pride. In Christianese, however, pride has a negative connotation and it usually means a preoccupation with one’s image or ego. A prideful man is an egotistical man, not a dignified man – at least in Christianese.
In his outstanding book entitled Humility: True Greatness, C.J. Mahaney summarizes it well: “Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.”
Dependence is Key
Men don’t like to admit dependence. He is not that impressive in his own right as he tugs at the pants leg of the one he depends upon. No, we want to be independent men, men that stand on our own strong legs to take on the world. But if we wish to be humble, we must be dependent on Christ. If he depends on God, the dependent man is a wise man. And his humility is strength.
I have heard it said by skeptics that Christianity is a crutch for the weak. I would not deny it. But the real question is who is weak and who is not. We all walk around with black hearts prone to all sorts of trouble, but the ones who understand their weakness may find healing. Those who don’t know they are sick cannot be healed. For me, the gospel of Christ is a crutch I cannot live without. If you take away the gospel – the cleansing of my rampant unrighteousness – I will fall over sideways into God knows what.
So if Jesus is a crutch, I’ll keep my crutch.
A humble man knows he is created and he is dependent. I did not knit me together in my mother’s womb. Through many of the choices made in my life, I could be dead or in jail – or worse, I could have harmed someone else. But God’s providence would not let me. His mighty hand rested on my shoulder and directed me. And thus I am eager to depend fully upon Him. He brought me thus far and I have much reason to believe my dependence upon Him is a good idea.
Humility is Not Self Deprecation
Humility is not insecurity. It is not aw shucks, well ya know. Humility is clear-eyed understanding of our smallness before God, but it is not curling into a ball of fearful insecurity. A humble man does not reject his good qualities, which were given to him by God. He understands his limitations and he understands his strengths.
He does not stare at the ground in meekness. The humble man squares off with problems and has the guts to speak the truth. Because he sees himself rightly, his ego makes way for courage.
A humble posture is to gratefully accept the strengths and skills God has imbedded into our DNA and to acknowledge how laughably short we fall of the glory of God. We don’t need to wallow in weakness, we need to place it at the foot of Christ and ask for His help.
It is not humility but pride to determine our skills are not worthy of expression. When I wrote my book, I was plagued by the thought that my writing the book was making a statement that I sat upon the mountaintop and was speaking to others who knew less than me. I didn’t want that. If I had given in to these internal jeers, I would have hid my talents in the dirt with the haughty mindset that surely God didn’t understand this aspect of calling me to write. It’s subtle, but this is pride in a humility husk.
The Humble Man
The humble man depends upon God. He uses the skills God gave him and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He does not insult God by denying his strengths, but rather he exercises his strengths without arrogance.
Look at Jesus. At His life and His righteousness. His holiness. If you spend your time beholding the risen Lord, you will have little ability to think of yourself too highly. As God’s children, we have tremendous worth, but we still fade like grass when our short earthly lives snuff out like a match. We have reason to be humble.
Both men and women should be humble, of course. But a man worth his salt is humble or else he is a monster or a passive-aggressive instigator. Masculinity is properly exercised in humility. And this humility is a key that unlocks his manly freedom. As he seeks to lead his family, his company, his friends, and/or his church, he will do so from a position of powerful submission to God. Not powerful because he is powerful (though he may be), but powerful because when he is weak he is strong because Jesus’ power is made perfect in our weakness.
In humility the man finds his strength.