A Humble Heart


A humble heart . . . it’s not easy to acquire (and it has to be acquired as we come out of the womb wanting our own way) or to keep. FreeDictionary.com defines humble as (1) marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful; and (2) showing deferential or submissive respect (quote source here). Unfortunately, most of those attributes are in rather short supply in our society today. We are more into branding ourselves and taking selfies and splashing them all over social media than deferring to others or showing much respect to others. And, as a current airline commercial tells us over and over again, It’s All About You” (as in “us”). Humility is not often one of our strong points.

However, humility is one of the key ingredients of Micah 6:8. The New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) of Micah 6:8 states the following:

The Lord has shown you what is good.
He has told you what he requires of you.
You must act with justice.
You must love to show mercy.

And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.

And it doesn’t get any clearer than that about how God wants us to live with Him and with each other on a daily basis. The three main ingredients of that verse include doing justice, loving mercy, and being humble. Let’s briefly look at each of these attributes:

Acting with justice means not only knowing the difference between right and wrong (and in our heart of hearts we all know exactly what that is at any given moment), but also doing the right thing… as in acting justly towards others and not just looking out for ourselves or hurting/using others in any way to get ahead and/or to benefit ourselves. And that also means that we don’t get to pick and choose who we “act justly” with or to, nor hide behind excuses and explanations that make us look good and “them” look bad.

Loving to show mercy means not being selfish and self-serving but to genuinely care about others in a meaningful and heartfelt way. Ah, “there’s the rub” as Shakepeare once wrote (as in “a meaningful and a heartfelt way” which we often reserve for ourselves). After all, our hearts are often turned towards what we want for ourselves, regardless of what it may cost someone else. However, there is no reason good enough to destroy or demean another person that isn’t at it’s very core incredibly selfish and self-serving (as in just plain evil). None. And what we do to others (good and bad) is extremely important to God, and nothing is hidden from Him (see Hebrews 4:13).

God is our judge, and we (even those of us who may not even believe in Him) will answer to God and God alone when our life is over. Not that this may have any meaning right now to those who don’t personally care or believe in God (it doesn’t). And it’s obvious on a daily basis that there are many people who believe that way (that nothing matters but what they want regardless of how they go about trying to get it or who they hurt doing it). Just watch the news for plenty of examples. However, our actions do have consequences, and while those consequences may not show up for a long time, they always show up eventually. There is no free ride, not even for the rich (and wannabe rich) or anyone else. Life comes with a price. Even Adolf Hitler realized that at the end of World War II when he committed suicide.

Being humble in the sight of God means living like God actually exists and knowing He is intimately involved in our lives. It means not treating God like He is some disinterested force in life who really doesn’t care what we do or don’t do, including the evil we do to others and even do to ourselves on a moment-by-moment basis (e.g., if sin wasn’t pleasurable in some way most of the time we wouldn’t do it), instead of acknowledging Him as the Creator of the entire universe. And how we treat others (as in all others) is a direct reflection of what we think about God. And for those of us who don’t really believe that God is intimately involved in our lives or is some kind of impersonal force who turns a blind eye to what we do and how we behave, the words of King David in Psalm 139 state just how intimately God is acquainted with each and every one of us:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

heart-RightSpiritIn looking at the context of Micah 6 which contains the verse stated at the beginning of this blog post, the context gives us the background to the question that verse 8 brings up–“What does it mean to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?” (Micah 6:8). What was true for the people of Israel back then is still true for us today. GotQuestions?org answers that question with the following statement:

One of the most popular verses among both Jews and Christians promoting social justice is Micah 6:8. It reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Many desire to know more about what this inspiring verse teaches on the issues of justice, mercy, and humility.

Micah 6 involves an imaginary conversation between the Lord and Israel. In verses 1-5 the Lord introduces His case against the disobedient people of Israel. Verses 6-7 record Israel’s response as a series of questions beginning with, “With what shall I come to the Lord?” (Micah 6:6).

Israel’s focus is on their external religious rites, and their questions show a progression from lesser to greater. First, they ask if God would be satisfied with burnt offerings of year-old calves (Micah 6:6b), offerings required in the Law of Moses. Second, they ask if they should bring “thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil” (Micah 6:7a). This is the rhetoric of hyperbole; such an offering could only be made by someone extremely wealthy or by the larger community of God’s people. Third, they ask whether they should offer their firstborn sons as a sacrifice for God. Would that be enough to cover their sin? Would God be pleased with them then?

Verse 8 follows with God’s answer, rooted in the Law of Moses: “He has told you, O man, what is good.” In other words, Israel should already have known the answer to their questions. God then says that He did not need or desire their religious rites, sacrifices, or oblations. Instead, the Lord sought Israel’s justice, mercy, and humility.

The answer to Israel’s sin problem was not more numerous or more painful sacrifices. The answer was something much deeper than any religious observance: they needed a change of heart. Without the heart, Israel’s conformity to the Law was nothing more than hypocrisy. Other prophets tried to communicate a similar message (Isaiah 1:14Hosea 6:6Amos 5:21). Unfortunately, God’s people were slow to heed the message (Matthew 12:7).

“Act justly” would have been understood by Micah’s audience as living with a sense of right and wrong. In particular, the judicial courts had a responsibility to provide equity and protect the innocent. Injustice was a problem in Israel at that time (Micah 2:1-23:1-36:11).

“Love mercy” contains the Hebrew word “hesed,” which means “loyal love” or “loving-kindness.” Along with justice, Israel was to provide mercy. Both justice and mercy are foundational to God’s character (Psalm 89:14). God expected His people to show love to their fellow man and to be loyal in their love toward Him, just as He had been loyal to them (Micah 2:8-93:10-116:12).

“Walk humbly” is a description of the heart’s attitude toward God. God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities (Micah 2:3). Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. Israel’s rhetorical questions had a three-part progression, and verse 8 contains a similar progression. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

The message of Micah is still pertinent today. Religious rites, no matter how extravagant, can never compensate for a lack of love (1 Corinthians 13:3). External compliance to rules is not as valuable in God’s eyes as a humble heart that simply does what is right. God’s people today will continue to desire justice, mercy, and humility before the Lord. (Quote source here.)

Too often in our society today we view humility as a sign of weakness. Actually it is a sign of strength that depends on God and not on ourselves. In an article titled, 10 Earmarks of a Humble Heart,” by Joyce Meyer and published in Charisma Magazine on April 20, 2015, she states the following “10 earmarks” of a humble heart:

1. The humble can always ask for help, and they don’t insist on everything being done their way.

2. They are quick to forgive others, difficult to offend, and content to wait on God for vindication when they have been wronged.

3. They are patient and don’t get frustrated with the weaknesses of others.

4. The humble person is a peacemaker. In fact, we need humility to maintain peace in our lives. Romans 12:16 says, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.”

Wow! Just imagine if we all decided to adopt just this one command from the Bible. It’s the way that leads to peace with ourselves and others.

5. A humble person knows when to be quiet. It’s certainly not wrong to talk, but a humble person is comfortable allowing others to have center stage and doesn’t feel the need to speak their mind in every situation.

6. A humble person sees their own weaknesses and can readily admit them. When we open up to others about ourselves, it can actually encourage and help them realize they’re not the only ones who deal with things.

7. A humble person happily serves other people, and they don’t do it to impress others. They do it unto God, knowing their reward will come from God.

8. A humble person is very thankful. This is one reason they’re usually so happy. When we live with an attitude of gratitude, it releases joy and power into our lives.

9. A humble person has a tender conscience and is quick to repent.

10. A leader who is truly humble treats everyone with respect. How a leader treats people is the quickest way to find out their level of humility.

First Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of humility. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing.” I often pray things like: “Lord, I can do absolutely nothing without You today. Please help me—I need Your grace in every situation.” (Quote source here.)

Those “10 earmarks” are a good place to start in our search in obtaining and sustaining a humble heart with God and others, and in acquiring a humble heart to help us to “do justice” and “love mercy” as stated in Micah 6:8. So remember to. . . .

Do justice . . . 

Love mercy . . .

And walk humbly with God . . . .

YouTube Video: “For the Sake of the Call” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here