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True Humility Isn’t Self Promotion

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:20, NLT). Jesus tells us that He’s humble and gentle. He wants to teach us and we’ll find rest in it.

Jesus didn’t just claim humility; He lived it. He displayed it in His reaction to His enemies. He could have just wiped them out, but that kind of thinking contradicts who He is. When the Roman soldiers came with their spears and shields to arrest Jesus, He said to them, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will not provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Humility doesn’t exert itself to destroy the life of an enemy. The Lord says, “Vengeance is Mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35); it’s never ours. Humility doesn’t act in vengeance.

Jesus’ humility is also seen in His utter opposition to self-promotion. (I’m writing to myself, every preacher, and to anyone who is in the limelight.) One example of this is when one of His disciples finally figured out who He was and, for the first time, confessed it, saying, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You’re the Messiah that we’ve been waiting for, and everything that means” (see Matthew 16:16). I wonder what I would have done if I were in Jesus’ position. I can imagine saying, “’Bout time y’all figured it out!” But that’s not how Jesus handled it. He, in humility and total absence of self-promotion, said, “Let’s just keep it quiet for a while. Don’t tell anybody.”

Scripture tells of us of four other times Jesus instructed people not to tell anybody about Him or make much of Him. The stories vary from miracles of healing to the story found in Luke 8:51–56 when He raised a little girl from the dead. It doesn’t happened every day. The Messiah of the ages doesn’t always end up in your bedroom with your baby. When Jesus spoke life into death, she came alive, and He said, “Don’t tell anybody.” The people there probably thought, “Are You crazy? You could use this for years to come! We could get You a tour bus—a camel bus—and drive everywhere to let everybody know who You are and what You’ve done! Now, Jesus, You’ve got to rethink this.” Jesus said, “No, don’t tell anybody.” That’s humility.

We live in a day where we want to tell everybody anything that could make us look important. We do one thing, one small thing that doesn’t compare with raising a little girl from the dead, and we figure out ways to say it—setting it in Christian-speak, of course. We don’t say things like, “Let me tell you what I did.” We say things like, “I’ve got to share something with you.” Oh good, you’re just sharing your arrogance. That’s different from telling me what you did. Sharing’s a good thing right? Not if it just leads to empty self-promotion.

Steve Berger (@steve_berger) is Pastor of Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN. For books and other resources from Steve visit our online store.

12 responses to “True Humility Isn’t Self Promotion”

  1. Derek Brown says:

    What a reminder, Steve, thanks. Referring to Matthew 16 passage, one version I have says “He sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone…” Sternly – and not gently – telling them not to say anything makes Him seem even more guarded to self-promotion. May we all live this fearful of pride.

    “Camel bus”…funny stuff :)

    • Steve Berger says:

      Thanks, Derek. Pride can lead us down a hard road. I appreciate your comment.

  2. Todd O says:

    Great message we can’t hear enough, thanks for the word! Ironic that the humble will be exalted and the “self-promoted” will be humbled (Luke 14:7-11). Our nature is the opposite.

    Also love what one of the Bible commentaries had to say about one of Jesus’ motivations in humility: someone who cares not for the praises of man more easily bears their scorn (paraphrased). Holy Spirit keep these words in my heart! Thanks Steve!

  3. Edward Hansen says:

    Pastor, Thank you. Your words are essential. You always endeavor to speak The Truth. Most of His Saints are unknown to history. “Love Mercy, do justice, walk humbly with your God.” Thank you for preaching this. There is great value in those walking unknown, un celebrated to enter His Kingdom bringing the lost, last and lowly to enternity.

    Thank you for your honesty before the fact.


  4. Dawn Graves says:

    Once again “hard” truths. Thanks for the hard stuff and please keep it coming. It ain’t always the funnest of times being molded and pruned, but for sure they will bring out the best of times getting to know Jesus!

    • Steve Berger says:

      Thanks Dawn, molding and pruning cause new and beautiful growth. I appreciate your comment.

  5. David Ecrement says:

    Good word; but ouch, the truth hurts. (And here I was feeling good about my day and how well I “handled” some things.) A little secret I’ve found is that if I’m maintaining a healthy fear of the Lord, it’s a little easier to remain humble. :-)

  6. Teasi Cannon says:

    This is a powerful subject, and one I believe cries out for further clarification and healthy debate. I agree with what you say, but I also know that the issue of self-promotion often butts heads with the parable of the talents. There were times when Jesus wanted silence, and others when he was against it. Due to the ever changing vehicles of communication these days, the church definitely needs a clear definition of self-promotion. Where is the line drawn? For example, I often see Christians (many I respect greatly) name dropping on Twitter or facebook. This seems like self-promotion to me, but maybe I’m missing something??? And think of our crazy passionate brother, the apostle Paul. Can’t you just imagine him with a Twitter account? He almost never wrote anything without first listing his credentials. So, on one hand we have Jesus saying “be quiet” on occasion, and on the other hand we have Paul shouting his credits without hesitiation. All of this to say, I believe this is a very important and timely issue for Christians today -one that in God’s economy may still be black and white; but one that sure can appear gray. Let’s go there.

  7. Bear says:

    Jeez. That stupid fallen nature, rares its ugly little head every day! I am kinda of sick of it my self, but yet I feed it and take quite good care of it! This sort of truth is something we need to our work daily, and if by His grace, maybe 5 years down the road I look just a little more like Jesus!

    • Steve Berger says:

      It’s a journey. I’ve been on it over 25 years and so we’re both just walking down that same road to Jesus. Thanks, Bear.