Week 16: The Real Definition of Humility

© 2016 Philip A Matthews

[Excerpted from the upcoming devotional, The Awesome Life-Giving Power of


"And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).


The manifestation of being emptied of oneself is the true definition of humility. Once Jesus "emptied Himself, He was able to "humble Himself. Only then was He able to "obey, even when it meant dying on the cross.

To empty yourself means to relinquish your grasp on your rights and desires, i.e., to give them up. Notice the wording of Philippians 2:6-7 in the Amplified: "Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! And the word translated "stripped in the Amplified and "made Himself of no reputation in the King James Version is "kenoo, meaning to "make empty or void. So Jesus did not grasp and hold to His rights and dignity of being Divinity but emptied Himself.

Then, once His Divine rights and desires were emptied out, He was able to "humble Himself. That is, He "lowered and abased or depressed Himself, the meaning of the Greek word "tapeinoo. First of all, He allowed Himself to become another form, "the guise of a slave, then "He abased and humbled Himself still further by becoming obedient to die on the cross. So being able to humble yourself is proof and manifestation that you have emptied yourself.

Keep in mind the unseen, assumed truth that explains why Jesus was willing to empty, humble, and obey: He had absolute faith in His Father's LOVE (John 5:20) and His Father's POWER (Colossians 2:12). This is the basis for such radical submission. Therefore, He was willing to give it all up and lay it all down because He was convinced that His Father would reward Him and never let Him perish (Hebrews 12:1-4).

Thus, humility is not just one of the spiritual graces. It is the seedbed from which all other spiritual graces spring and grow. After He humbled Himself, Jesus was able to show all of the other graces: Love for His persecutors, forgiveness, patience, longsuffering, peace, incredible calmness, faith in God, the ability to hold His tongue, etc. All of these graces are forms of obedience to God: The ability to shut up when the Holy Spirit tells us we need to be quiet, the grace to be self-controlled, patient, and calm when craziness is happening all around, the God-like power to show love and forgiveness to those who are persecuting, abusing, or taking unfair advantage of us, etc.

So this is the practical truth: Whenever we cannot OBEY God by exhibiting these graces, the problem is always that we haven't HUMBLED or lowered ourselves far enough because we haven't EMPTIED ourselves of our rights and desires completely enough. And this goes right back to our lack of Faith, which is based on Love (Galatians 5:6 "Faith works by Love").

The lyrics of a song written by William G Schell, "Humility, in an old Church of God hymnal, Evening Light Songs, describe these profound truths:

Humility, thou secret vale, unknown to proud in heart,

Where showers of blessing never fail, and glories never depart.


Humility, how pure thy place! Thou seat of holiness!

Thou door of entrance into grace and everlasting bliss!


Humility, how calm the breast that knows thy peace sublime!

Within thy courts our perfect rest grows sweeter all the time.


Humility, thou shoreless sea of perfect love so deep!

Thy crystal waters cover me, my helpless soul to keep.


Oh, make thy blest abode with me, thou angel of the sky.

If I may ever dwell with thee, my soul shall never die.


So What Is Pride?

So if humility is the manifestation and proof of being self-emptied, it should be obvious that pride, generally considered to be the opposite of humility, is merely the natural state of not being emptied of oneself. We as humans are naturally filled with pride. Humility, however, is not natural. It can only be accomplished deliberately and only by God's grace.

All spiritual graces spring from humility, as proven above. All lack of spiritual graces spring from pride. Humility gives us unlimited spiritual power and ability; pride keeps us forever vulnerable to the devil and his ability to manipulate human beings.

Like Christ, the humble, self-emptied person can forgive, sincerely "pray for those who spitefully use him (Matthew 5:44), and move on with life under any and all circumstances. But the proud, non-emptied person cannot forgive, cannot sincerely pray for his enemies, and is doomed to spend lots of time moping, complaining, rehashing events in his mind, and hoping for some kind of retaliation or vindication.

The humble person can live holy and lovingly; the proud person is driven to live selfishly. That is because the humble person is truly free, but the proud person is a slave to his own selfish desires and to the evil being who controls such.


The Relationship between Humility and Agape Love?

Thus, we can describe the relationship between humility and agape love in the following manner. Think of a coin having two sides, heads and tails. Agape love is heads, and humility is tails. All coins must have both. But agape is what God alone does”agape comes only from God”while humility is what man does. That is, when man empties and humbles himself, God's agape love can then manifest itself”and not until then. Notice 1 Corinthians 13. When Paul describes agape love, he really seems to describe humility, from man's perspective: "Love suffers long¦ Love is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily¦ Love is not conceited¦ Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking¦

Man's humility, i.e., self-emptying and lowering himself, enables God's agape love to be expressed. It is automatic: When we are emptied of self, then agape love can and will flow into and through us. No need to pray for patience or the ability to forgive. Just humble yourself, and His patience will take over. No need to worry about whether you can find grace to go through a hard trial or have peace in the midst of a super-long tribulation. Simply empty and humble yourself, and God's divine love will automatically flow through you with power, grace, endurance, peace, and joy. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you do your part (humility), He will unfailingly do His part (agape love).



  1. Looking back, can you see where in the process you have failed to either empty, humble, obey, or trust the Father's Love? What do you plan to do about this?



Oh, Father, thank You for giving us Your Word and helping us to analyze this critical process of emptying, humbling, obeying, and trusting. Now help us to practice these wonderful truths every day in the form of agape love. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.