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Is Humility a Virtue or a Weakness?

January 4th, 2012 by Oleg Kostyuk

What is the most valuable quality that makes a person great? Think about the greatest people in history. By that I mean the most inspiring and the most influential. You will be surprised that the majority of them shared the same often-overlooked quality. It is humility.

Let me suggest that humility as a merit was introduced to the Western world by Jesus.

The theme of humble service is interwoven into every action of Jesus on Earth. All four evangelists clearly state that Jesus came to serve and not to be served!

In Matthew 18:1-5 we read that when disciples approached Jesus and asked Him who was the greatest He said, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

In the Gospel according to Mark 10:32-45 we read about James and John who approached Jesus and asked Him to sit on the Right and on the left side in His glory. Jesus responded to His disciples in verses 43, 44, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be the first shall be slave of all”.

In Luke 12:35-38 we read the parable of the serving Master. In this parable Jesus encourages His followers to be on their watch and wait for the Master to come. And when the master comes, Jesus emphatically states in verse 37, “Assuredly, I say to you that he (the Master) will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come to serve them”.

In John 13:1-17 He takes the bowl and the towel and starts washing His disciples’ feet. How much more humiliating can it get?

Prepare for an even more striking act: He willingly takes the cross and walks up to Golgotha, where He was crucified.

Jesus did not come to be served. He came to serve. That was a radical teaching of Jesus.

More than that, His actions were against the status quo. His humble service forever changed our understanding of what greatness is.

Dr. Edwin Judge with the Ancient History program at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia explored the origins of humility. He posed the question: How did humility become to be regarded as a beautiful quality?

What was discovered was surprising. Everything changed in the first century with the coming and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Philosophers and ancient writers before the 1st century considered humility to be a weakness. No one argued that it was a virtue.

The study concluded quite clearly that people in the first century looked at the life of Jesus and His shameful death and reasoned to themselves: “If the greatest Man they knew lived such a humble life and died for others in such a shameful way, then greatness must involve humility.”

Take a few moments to watch the interview with Dr. Edwin Judge:

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One Response to “Is Humility a Virtue or a Weakness?”

  1. On January 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm Oleg Kostyuk responded with... #

    Last night I came across a book “Humilitas” by John Dickson. I am planing on getting one. Here is a link to its Introduction: http://johndickson.org/files/humilitas_intro.pdf

    If so many people are talking about this quality as virtue, then it should become a quality that we should be striving for. However, we should remember that “Humility stands alone among the virtues in that as soon as you think you have it, you probably don’t”.

    Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 describes what real example of humility is.

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