Humility is something Christians often praise, but often fail to possess in our daily thoughts, feelings, or actions. It’s something we love in other people. Like a beautiful gem in the earth, it’s rare and regularly disregarded by passersby as nothing more than a rock.
Pride, on the other hand, is like a weed. It grows easily without any effort. It grows everywhere without any planting. It even, from time to time, blooms with little flowers that make it seem OK or even beautiful to the untrained eye. But, it only takes and never gives. Humility is rare, modest, and often missed. Pride is abundant, ostentatious, and regularly tended.
Therefore, for those following Jesus, the One who is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28), it’s quite important to not only learn the difference between pride and humility, but also how to detect the first and cultivate the second. Christians must become skilled gardeners who know how to pull the weeds of pride and care for the flower of humility.
The first skill to be learned toward this end is knowing how to detect pride’s deadly roots. In no particular order, here are twelve questions to help you find pride in your own heart.
1) Do You Rank Yourself With Others?
Is there a leader-board in your mind concerning the love, service, intelligence, or giftedness of yourself and those in your life? Pride seeks first place in that list, constantly checks its own rankings, and regularly makes updates. Humility doesn’t even know there is a list. If it did have a list, humility would genuinely believe itself at the list’s bottom because it’s so aware of God’s glory, others’ good, and how little they bring to the table!
2) How Do You Treat Those “Beneath” You?
Pride demands honor, respect, deference, service, and more from those it deems, “beneath us”; that is, those under us in age, intelligence, wealth, status, abilities, job, or maturity. Even more, pride pays attention to these “inferiors” with little mind, care, patience, or love. Humility, on the other hand, lowers itself under those around, regardless of their “rank,” to love them, serve them, and lift them up in honor. So, how do you treat the barista at the coffee shop, the jr. higher, the waiter, the guys cleaning your car, the janitor, or the delivery guy? Pride barely recognizes those under us, humility exalts them.
3) How Often Do You Insert Yourself Into Conversation Or Activities; Or Want To?
Is your resume or trophy shelf ever ready to share? Do you find yourself as the answer to everyone else’s problems? Pride chases the spotlight and thinks of its own wisdom as the solution. Humility holds the spotlight for Jesus and has him as the only answer for the world’s problems. Humility isn’t the guy with all the answers, but it knows The Guy with all the answers. What do you bring to conversations or people’s problems? What is your boast? Are you like Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30) or John the Baptist (John 3:30)?
4) Who Do You Pull Near & Who Do You Push Away?
Do you align yourself with people of great esteem and reject or deny your relationships with the unimpressive? Are you proud of your connections with the popular, no matter how strenuous your tie? Are you embarrassed by friendship with the unremarkable? Do you grasp for those high on the ladder of Man’s praise and kick the heads of those who are a few rungs lower than you? Pride wants to share in the glory of the “glorious,” humility is happy to climb down the ladder and be called friends of the average.
5) What Happens Within You When You’re Disrespected?
We so quickly say of ourselves, “I am a sinner!” but will fight anyone else who says that about us. We love humility, but hate anyone who humbles us. Our mouths confess humility, but our anger reveals our pride. Now, your right, we don’t want to encourage insult or disrespect and should oppose it when given unjustly or untruthfully. But humility will keep our hearts from outrage when disrespect comes our way because it knows, “In truth, I am worse than they think!”
6) What Happens to Your Heart in Suffering?
Do you rail against God, “How dare you treat me like this! Don’t you know who I am and what I’ve done for you?” Do you despise God if he ever lowers your station or your status? If so, in times of peace you never actually had humility, just an external politeness toward God as long as he didn’t touch your throne, your robe, your crown, or your kingdom. That’s a truce, not humility. In suffering, humility says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Or, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Pride demands honor and blessing. Humility just clings to God and trusts his heart in both the green grass and the dark valley (Psalm 23:1-4). Pride demands God. Humility just depends on Him.
7) What Do You Seek?
Pride seeks a Throne. Humility seeks a wash bucket (John 13:3-5). Pride commands, “Wash my feet!” Humility asks, “Whose feet may I wash?” Pride climbs. Humility kneels. This gets a little tricky in the church where honor is given to those who serve well. However, we can still ask, “Am I seeking a specific kind of service or am I happy to serve wherever there is need?” Are we seeking service that will have many look to us, evaluate us, honor us, and praise us? Or are we happy to serve the body in whatever way it needs most at the time? Are we upset when certain roles are not offered (teaching, group leader, music ministry, etc.)? Or, are we upset when certain roles are offered (youth ministry discipler, prayer ministry, kids ministry, set-up or tear down crew, etc.)? Is our service done to be seen or to love? Even in our service, what are we seeking?
8) Am I Grateful?
Pride is entitled and sees all as its due. Humility is grateful for all God’s graces – spiritual and physical – and sees nothing as deserved. Pride sees everything as wages. Humility sees everything as gift. Do you wish to kill pride and cultivate humility? Open your eyes, count your blessings, and shout from the depths of your heart, “Thanks be to God for all his grace toward me!” Gratefulness is terrible soil for pride and miracle-grow for humility. For those convinced they deserve hell, every good thing, great or small, is an reason for eternally grateful and happy hearts.
9) How Do You Feel About the Success of Others?
When the promotion is given to someone else? When the other guy is made team captain? When the other father’s child makes honor roll or wins State? When revival happens in the church down the street? What happens within you when others around you succeed in what you’re doing? Pride despises the success of others and makes us miserable whenever it happens. Humility rejoices enthusiastically when good comes to or from others.
10) What’s Your Source of Strength or Motivation?
Do you act like a fountain or do you embrace your role as a drain? Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Do you disagree? At least in your actions if not with your mouth? Are you living in the flesh or in the Spirit? Do you heartily believe God’s promises, follow his command, and eat His daily bread as your nourishment? Or do you have a different food to sustain you? Do you go to the Word, the Supper, the church, and prayer to sustain you? Are these your sources of strength and motivation or do you see them as speed bumps to your ladder climb success? Do you, in your daily routine, throw off God’s graces and replace them with your own or do you, with holy-greediness, take and eat all that God serves you?
11) How Do You Treat Your Leaders?
How do you see and treat the pastors God has gifted to your church (Ephesians 4:11)? Paul’s words will help set the stage for our self-examination here:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
To make this as practical as possible, a simple question: do you practice these things toward your church’s leaders? Do you recognize and reverently honor your pastors’ God-given role in your life and your church (1 Thess. 5:12)? Do you truly value and esteem them highly in your minds and with your mouths (1 Thess. 5:13a)? Do you support their ministry and actively work to bring peace into your church (1 Thess. 5:13b). If you find yourself ungrateful for your leaders, speaking ill of them in action or attitude, or contributing to ungodly division within your church family, then pride is your pilot. Humility loves to esteem, support, and stand in unity with those who love the Lord and desire to do His work; especially those entrusted the task of leading the church. Pride or humility is revealed in how you relate to those God has called you to humbly support and submit to (1 Peter 5:5-7; Hebrews 13:17).
12) How Do You Relate to the Local Church?
If you find yourself outside of or unconnected to a local church family, then you are in even more danger since you likely feel sufficient within yourself to follow the Lord. Keeping yourself outside the flock of God is nothing less than relying on your own wisdom, strength, and godliness to walk the narrow path. Even more, it is rejecting God’s gracious instruction to live under the care of His pastors and in the care of his people (Eph. 4:11; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-31); 1 Peter 5:5-7). It’s relying on our own strength within us and rejecting God’s Word to us. Churchless Christianity is a flower-weed that blooms well in the heart-soil of self-trust and self-sufficiency. Humility sees its need for God’s grace given through God’s people.
I know there are more questions we could be asking, but I am sure these will offer a good start.