By James M. Rochford

What is humility?

Andrew Murray: Humility is “acknowledging the truth of [our] position as creature, and yielding to God His place.” (Murray, HAAS, 7)

Humility is the highest virtue

Andrew Murray: “Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.” (Murray, HAAS, 6)

Andrew Murray: “Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.” (Murray, HAAS, 7)

Humility is NOT…

Talking poorly about yourself. C.S. Lewis writes, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 128.

Andrew Murray: “Humility does not consist merely in thoughts or words of self-depreciation, but, as Paul puts it, in ‘a heart of humility,’ encompassed by compassion and kindness, meekness and longsuffering—the sweet and lowly gentleness recognized as the mark of the Lamb of God.” (Murray, HAAS, 28)

Refusing to influence others. Moses complained about his inadequacy, and this actually angered God (Ex. 3-4). It’s incredibly prideful to stare God in the eye and tell him that you don’t believe he can use you.

Being “nice.” Humility isn’t a behavior, as much as it is an attitude. Properly understood, you can’t fake humility.

Humility is…

Being content with God’s plan.

Dependence on God & others.

Sensitivity to God & others.

Being teachable.

Focusing on others.

Humility is inward—not outward

Andrew Murray: [The apostles had outwardly sacrificed everything to follow Christ…] “But deeper down than all this there was a dark power, of the existence and the hideousness of which they were hardly conscious, which had to be slain and cast out, before they could be the witnesses of the power of Jesus to save.” (Murray, HAAS, 22)

Andrew Murray: “When Satan casts out Satan, it is only to enter afresh in a mightier, though more hidden power.” (Murray, HAAS, 23)

Why should we pursue humility?


Jesus showed perfect humility first

Andrew Murray: “Unceasingly He uses the words not, and nothing, of Himself. The not I, in which Paul expresses his relation to Christ, is the very spirit of what Christ says of His relation the Father.” (Murray, HAAS, 13-14)

“The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19).

“I can do nothing on My own initiative” (John 5:30).

“I do not receive glory from men” (John 5:41).

“I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).

“My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

“I have not come of Myself” (John 7:28).

“I do nothing on My own initiative” (John 8:28).

“I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42).

“I do not seek My glory” (John 8:50).

“I do not speak on My own initiative” (John 14:10).

“The word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:24).

Andrew Murray: “This is the true self-denial to which our Savior calls us, the acknowledgment that self has nothing good in it, except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed.” (Murray, HAAS, 15)

Regarding humility, Jesus knew his identity, but remained quiet and unseen, working as a carpenter until he was 30. How difficult that must have been to be the King of the world but swing a hammer, work a simple job, and remain unnoticed.


Why did Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek”? In what way does this make us happy?

Striving to be somebody is utterly futile and totally exhausting. God wants to give us liberation and rest from this.

Andrew Murray: “Meekness and lowliness the one thing He offers us; in it we shall find perfect rest of soul. Humility is to be a salvation.” (Murray, HAAS, 18)

Accepting God’s gifts

At the tower of Babel, the people wanted to build themselves a city (Gen. 11:4). God wants to build a city for us (Rev. 21:10).

At Babel, the people wanted to make a “name” for themselves (Gen. 11:4). In reality, God wants to give us a “name” (Rev. 22:3-5).

At Babel, the people wanted to build to the “heavens” (Gen. 11:4). God wants the heavens to come down to Earth (Rev. 21:10).

At Babel, they wanted to build a gate to the gods (Gen. 11:4). God wants to open the gate so all people can come to him (Rev. 21:24-27).

Everything we have has been given to us

Tim Keller compares pride to “cosmic plagiarism.” Imagine if someone took credit for a piece of music or literature that they didn’t write. We would be (rightly!) outraged if someone took credit for stolen work. But currently, we use God’s gifts, and claim them as our own.

“Who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12 NIV).

We are all creatures—not Creators

There is no reason to be jealous of other creations of God. Who looks at the beauty of the sun and grumbles in jealousy? That’s absurd! But why do we look at other people with jealousy?

How do we develop humility?

Humility is something we need to “learn” (Mt. 11:29).

Humility is shown in how we treat fellow sinners

Ole Hallesby: “The meekness which we reveal in our dealings with our fellow men is therefore a gauge which shows accurately how much we in our hearts have humbled ourselves before God.” (Hallesby, UHW, 43)

Ole Hallesby: “As a rule, however, we are not honest enough with ourselves to admit that our love of ease is the real reason for not doing these things. Instead we devise ‘valid’ reasons why we time and again leave people to serve themselves.” (Hallesby, UHW, 48)

Ole Hallesby: “[The humble man] acquires a remarkable ability to associate with people. It seems that he can always approach them from the right angle. By his humility and lowliness of mind he succeeds in bringing out the best in all whom he meets. By his humility and willingness to serve he wins friends even among those who are opposed to him.” (Hallesby, UHW, 55)

Andrew Murray: “Even though the words, ‘I am not as the rest of men’ are rejected and condemned, their spirit may too often be found in our feelings and language towards our fellow worshippers and fellow-men.” (Murray, HAAS, 32)

Andrew Murray: “The publican will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within who commends and exalts.” (Murray, HAAS, 32)

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12:16 NIV).

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant” (1 Cor. 13:4).

“Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26).

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2)

“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).

Andrew Murray: “The question is often asked, how we can count others better than ourselves, when we see that they are far below us in wisdom and in holiness, in natural gifts, or in grace received. The question proves at once how little we understand what real lowliness of mind is. True humility comes when, in the, light of God, we have seen ourselves to be nothing, have consented to part with and cast away self, to let God be all.” (Murray, HAAS, 27)

Andrew Murray: “The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God’s presence he has learned to say with Paul, ‘I am nothing.’” (Murray, HAAS, 27)

Andrew Murray: “Humility before God is nothing if not proved in humility before men.” (Murray, HAAS, 26)

Andrew Murray: “The only humility that is really ours is not that which we try to show before God in prayer, but that which we carry with us, and carry out, in our ordinary conduct; the insignficances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity, because they prove what really is the spirit that possesses us. It is in our most unguarded moments that we really show and see what we are. To know the humble man, to know how the humble man behaves, you must follow him in the common course of daily life.” (Murray, HAAS, 25)

Humility comes from gaining a vertical perspective on suffering

Ole Hallesby: “Most of us do not learn to know what the world is really like until it turns its wrong side toward us and we cut ourselves upon its sharply protruding edges. Not until then do we learn to desist from proud words and haughty bearing. Not until we have been plucked to the skin of all our feathers do we seek refuge in our helplessness in the secret place of the Most High. What we then experience often becomes determining for the rest of our lives. The reality, the depth, and the riches of grace which we then experience give us a personal acquaintanceship with our Lord which come to mean something to us also when our troubles are over. We have learned the art, the secret, of taking refuge under His wings. We have begun to see that this is the Simple solution of all of life’s problems.” (Hallesby, UHW, 70)

Andrew Murray: “Let us look upon every brother who tries or vexes us, as God’s means of grace, God’s instrument for our purification, for our exercise of the humility Jesus our Life breathes within us.” (Murray, HAAS, 29)

Ole Hallesby: “I know a number of people who have weathered storms of great physical pain and adversity very well, but who became bitter and hateful when they began to suffer injustice. It requires a great deal of courage to bear unfair treatment and injustice.” (Hallesby, UHW, 38)

Andrew Murray: “Let us accept gladly whatever can humble us before God or men—this alone is the path to the glory of God.” (Murray, HAAS, 43)

Andrew Murray: “He prays for humility, at times very earnestly; but in his secret heart he prays more, if not in word, then in wish, to be kept from the very things that will make him humble.” (Murray, HAAS, 50)

Andrew Murray: “Let each failure and shortcoming simply urge us to turn humbly and meekly to the meek and lowly Lamb of God.” (Murray, HAAS, 28)

Humility comes from dependence on God

Andrew Murray: “What a hopeless task if we had to do the work! Nature never can overcome nature, not even with the help of grace. Self can never cast out self, even in the regenerate man. Praise God! the work has been done, and finished and perfected forever. The death of Jesus, once and forever, is our death to self. And the ascension of Jesus, His entering once and for ever into the Holiest, has given us the Holy Spirit to communicate to us in power, and make our very own, the power of the death-life.” (Murray, HAAS, 47)

Andrew Murray: “It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up, in the thought that Jesus is all.” (Murray, HAAS, 51)

Humility leads to forgiveness

Andrew Murray: “Amid what are considered the temptations to impatience and touchiness, to hard thoughts and sharp words, which come from the failings and sins of fellow-Christians, the humble man carries the oft repeated injunction in his heart, and shows it in his life, ‘Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as the Lord forgave you.’” (Murray, HAAS, 27)

Humility comes from not seeking praise or glory

Ole Hallesby: “We all think that it is of paramount importance to be noticed, admired, talked about, praised. Even though we do not lay claim to genius, nevertheless we expect people to take notice of our talents, our ability, and all the other points in which we excel, both physically and mentally. That is why we feel more or less disappointed and ignored if people do not appreciate our outstanding qualities and otherwise take cognizance of us. In fact, such disappointment is oftentimes so deep-seated that it destroys Christian fellowship and co-operation on a large scale. In practically every Christian flock there is a greater or lesser number of both men and women who feel that they have been misunderstood and set aside by the leaders. They become peeved, begin to pout, and inject a great deal of bad blood into the group by slander and intrigue. Finally they surrender completely to the spirit of factionalism and divide the flock into two groups, thus doing irreparable damage for a long time to come. Verily, it requires great and calm courage to remain unnoticed and to be set aside.” (Hallesby, UHW, 45)

Andrew Murray: “As long as we take glory from one another, as long as ever we seek and love and jealously guard the glory of this life, the honor and reputation that comes from men, we do not seek, and cannot receive the glory that comes from God.” (Murray, HAAS, 42)

Andrew Murray: “Let the glory of the All glorious God be everything to you. You will be freed from the glory of men and of self, and be content and glad to be nothing.” (Murray, HAAS, 44)

Andrew Murray: “The preacher of spiritual truth with an admiring congregation hanging on his lips, the gifted speaker on a Holiness platform expounding the secrets of the heavenly life, the Christian giving testimony to a blessed experience, the evangelist moving on as in triumph, and made a blessing to rejoicing multitudes—no man knows the hidden, the unconscious danger to which these are exposed.” (Murray, HAAS, 52)

Further Reading

Hallesby, Ole. Under His Wings. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Murray, Andrew. Humility and Absolute Surrender. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.