home

Essays


BACK to
PRIDE HUMILITY
& the Bible

Humility does not mean Integrity

Bibliophiles have many problems - one being that they want to feel like they are complying with the Bible without doing what the Bible tells them to do.  Therefore they pretend the Bible doesn't say what it obviously says.  The definition of humility illustrates this phenomenon.  The Bible says humility is good, therefore to Bibliophiles humility can't mean low self-evaluation or self-deprecating behavior at least as the Bible uses that term.  Humility in the Biblical sense must mean correct self-evaluation as opposed to erroneously exalted self-evaluation, and appropriate behavior as opposed to self-exalting behavior.

The first refutation of this position is found in any Greek lexicon classical Greek or Biblical Greek.  In the New Testament the adjective translated humble (tapeinos) means (besides humble) low or lowly.  The noun translated humility in the NT means (besides humility or humiliation) lowliness or self-abasement.  The verb form of this word means (besides to humble or humiliate) to lower or make low.

But of course the Bibliophile could argue that it is only self-exalted people who are or should be humbled or made low.  Therefore humility only corrects errors.  It doesn't try to modify self-evaluation or behavior that is already correct.

Is this position defensible for all references to humility in the NT?  I must admit that, while not demonstrably true, this position cannot be proven false either except for one obstinate verse:

Col 5:5  "Be subject, one to another, and be clothed with humility, because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble."

This verse implies that a person clothed with humility will be subject to those around him,  i.e.  he will behave as a subordinate.  Note that the verse does not specifically target proud people, but everyone in general.  Therefore this verse refutes the position that humility in the NT is only used to correct erroneously high self-evaluation or self-exalting behavior.

But the lexicon is not done yet.  The word translated humble or humility in the NT is also translated other ways in other verses.  KJV is used here because of the wide availability of Strong's and Young's Concordances.

abase:
Phil 4:2  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.
2Cor 11:7  Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that you may be exalted?

base:
2Cor 10:1  [I Paul] who in presence am base among you...

cast down:
2Cor 7:6  God that comforts those that are cast down comforts us by the coming of Titus.

low:
Ja 1:9  Let the brother of low degree rejoice...
Ja 1:10  ...but the rich in that he is made low
Lk 1:48  For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
Lk 3:5  ...every mountain and hill shall be brought low...
Lk 1:52  He has pulled down the mighty and exalted them of low degree.
Rom 12:6  ...Condescend to men of low estate.

lowly:
Mt 11:29  I am meek and lowly in heart.
Eph 4:2  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering...
Phil 2:3  in lowliness of mind, let each esteem the other better than themselves.

It should be obvious to the most casual reader that the majority of these verses refute the Bibliophilic position that humility in the NT is only used to correct erroneously high self-evaluation or self-exalting behavior.

One final refutation:  Even if all the above reasoning were totally ignored, is it not obvious that the NT praises self-deprecating behavior, even when it is not specifically labeled humility?  Note the following passages from Matthew alone:

5: 25 Agree with your adversary.
5:39  Turn the other cheek.
5:40-41  Give more than is required.
5:42  Lend to anyone who asks.
         Bless those who curse you.
6:14  forgive trespasses.
18:4  Whoever humbles himself as this child is greatest in heaven.
20:27  Whoever would be greatest, let him be a slave.

The rest of the NT has plenty more such verses, but why bother?  You get the idea unless you simply refuse to get the idea.  So am I advocating self-deprecating behavior?  Hell no.  I'm advocating sensible interpretation of not only the words of scripture, but the purpose of it.