“Aww, shucks, it was nothing.”* Maybe you’ve come across false humility. It’s a funny thing, because it can be pretty obvious sometimes. The most humble people I know don’t realise they are.
Zephaniah’s prophecy only uses the word humility (or humble) a handful of times (well, in the NIV it does – my Hebrew doesn’t stretch beyond the Shema). But there’s plenty of evidence that humility pays, and haughtiness doesn’t work out so well.
Humility can also be a bit of a minefield – try to be too humble and you end up underplaying God’s awesomeness. Humility is not a putting-oneself-down, it’s simply having a realistic view of oneself. Humility allows for a credit-where-credit’s due approach. The humble don’t deny their own gifts, talents and achievements. They don’t pretend they’re worthless. Undeserving, perhaps, but not worthless. But they don’t overstate their own part in them, either.
But that can be difficult online. Martin Saunders recently wrote for Christian Today about platform building. And his comments were met with predictable responses – some hearty and vocal agreements, and some equally vocal attempts to rubbish his views. I think this is one of the key components of his argument:
When your content is the Gospel of Jesus Christ however, and you’ve managed to convince yourself that in order to make Him more famous, you’ll have to do likewise, something’s gone seriously awry.
Yet, though that seems logical to me, there were plenty who were willing to attack the concept. Humility isn’t all that popular. I’m trying to get a book published at the moment, and something I’ve been asked by virtually every publisher I’ve approached is what kind of platform I have. They might have different ways of asking the question, but that’s the crux of it. Humility doesn’t pay the bills.
But Zephaniah knows that while humility might not pay the bills, it still pays to be humble. What are the people called to do in Zephaniah? Be silent (1:7), that’s humble; gather together and seek the Lord (2:1+3), that’s humility; seek righteousness (2:3), that’s humility; seek humility (2:3), uh…; wait for me (3:8), that’s a humble approach; sing, shout, be glad and rejoice (3:14), all these things spring from humility. Humility is a requirement for us as Christians. That doesn’t mean we’re called to be doormats, but we are called to be humble. We’re called to understand, accept and even express our place in God’s eyes.
How can we do that online? Well, answers on a postcard (or in the comments section) would be welcome. But perhaps a few ideas from me.
- I might be the only person who’s right in a discussion (unlikely, I know…) but that doesn’t mean I’m the only person who God values.
- Humble silence (whilst avoiding giving the impression that you’ve left the computer in a huff) might sometimes be an appropriate response for a time.
- Shouting about what God has done might also be appropriate (but probably don’t try to combine this with a humble silence…)
- There can be a fine line between encouraging someone to think about a Christian viewpoint, and encouraging them to resent a Christian viewpoint. The way that viewpoint is expressed may well make the difference as to which side of the line you fall.
I’ll try to humbly accept any criticism of the above 🙂
*Ok, so no-one actually says ‘shucks’ these days. More’s the pity.