Pride can act humble.
I can act as humble as Moses (“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Wait a minute, didn’t Moses write Numbers? What’s up with that? Anyway, I can act meek as Moses while simultaneously being proud of how humble I am.
Don’t get me wrong – I really do want to be humble. But true humility isn’t being preoccupied with whether you’re humble or not. Did you ever get preoccupied with humility and pride? Someone commends you for your humility and you’re immediately tempted to be proud about it. Here’s what we need – a good dose of self-forgetfulness.
As Tim Keller says in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:
If we were to meet a truly humble person, (C.S.) Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
How do we think of ourselves less? By being interested in others. “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.”
This is gospel-humility – counting others more significant than ourselves. Being genuinely interested in and concerned for others. A good dose of self-forgetfulness.
Paul says we should “put on” compassion and love for our brothers and sisters. I’m not naturally emotional or compassionate. I’ve had to learn to put on compassion. All my life I looked to my own interests, but when Jesus saved me I had to learn to start looking to the interests of others.
To put on compassion means we try to enter into what someone is going through, try to imagine what it would be like to suffer what they’re suffering. We can’t fully know another’s pain, but we can do our best to empathize.
But self-forgetfulness is more than sympathizing. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice. Celebrating God’s work in someone’s life. Being glad when others are blessed. This is true humility.
And when we sincerely sympathize or celebrate with others we forget ourselves. And we’re truly humble.
So ask Jesus to help you think of yourself less and more of others today. Now, enough about you, what do you think about me?
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Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.
Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.