Proverbs 16 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (v. 18). Put another way, be humble or you’ll stumble. Pride is the oldest sin in the universe, and if this cancer of the soul is left undiagnosed and untreated, it will destroy spiritual life. And the cure for this deadly disease is humility.
In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul gave us the ultimate example of humility: Jesus Christ (see vv. 5-11). We learn from this passage that humility is sometimes painful. In fact, it usually is. “Being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8). Jesus left heaven’s magnificence to come to earth’s mess, entering time and space in a human body and ultimately being crucified, which was the most degrading, excruciating form of death known to man at the time. And it was all for love (see John 3:16).
Now, humility is probably not going to be as painful for you and me as it was for Jesus (see Hebrews 12:4). But it’s going to cost us nonetheless, whether it’s our comfort, time, money, or maybe even our reputation.
But just keep reading: “Therefore God also has highly exalted [Jesus] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11).
Paul wanted us to know that Jesus’ self-sacrifice and humility was ultimately rewarded by God. Because Jesus humbled Himself before the Father, the Father has exalted Him and given Him “the name which is above every name” (v. 9)—the supreme, divine designation of Lord (see v. 11; see also Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 2:36; Revelation 5:11-13; 19:16). This is monumental.
The larger principle Paul was getting at was that God exalts the humble. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Think about it like this: If Jesus Christ, who is designated by God the Father as the Lord of all, and at whose name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, can humble Himself, then guess what? You can give up a little pride. As Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5). And the second part of that holds true as well: if God the Father exalted Jesus, He can exalt you, too.
The way up is down. The way down is up. So if you want to be raised up, go low. Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). God is drawn to humility. Scripture tells us He saves the humble (see Job 22:29), listens to the humble (see Psalm 10:17), and dwells with the humble (see Isaiah 57:15). I think He responds to humility more quickly than just about any other attribute.
So remember: be humble or you’ll stumble. Be meek or you’ll get mashed. Be selfless or you might just get squished.