I’ve read a number of books by Andrew Murray (1828-1917) on my tablet because ebooks by Murray are cheap to download (some only 99 cents). OK, that’s a distant secondary reason. The first reason is that his writings are still full of insight these many years later. Murray was the son of missionaries to South Africa where he lived and ministered most of his life. He was a pastor and writer, having written an astonishing number of books, 240, one of which I just finished, Humility.
I’ve always been humble, so really didn’t need to read this book. Oops! OK, I did need to read this book. I realized that I give mental acknowledgment and verbal affirmation to the importance of humility, but it was Murray’s book that helped my heart to be more open to being humbled.
For those of us who pastor people there’s no better place to tend to our pastor’s heart than to reflect on the subject of humility. Murray writes of the importance of humility for the professional Christian worker. “We may find professors and ministers, evangelists and workers, missionaries and teachers, in whom the gifts of the Spirit are many and manifest, and who are the channels of blessing to multitudes, but of whom, when the testing comes… it is only to painfully manifest that the grace of humility, as an abiding characteristic, is scarce to be seen.” (page 19) We can be very gifted workers in God’s kingdom, but if we come across as prideful as over against being seen as humble our ministry won’t ring true with people. Then, too, if we want God’s help and not His opposition, we need to work on this area. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6)
Murray unpacks a great deal about humility in his small volume. We don’t normally think of humility as being an attribute of God’s, but Murray reminds the reader how Jesus was truly humble in coming to earth as one of us, lived humbly, and humbled Himself to the point of dying for us. Jesus taught a great deal about humility. For instance, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28) Then too, there was the time Jesus washed his disciples feet in the upper room, a task often done by a servant. His use of the bowl and towel were an example to His diciples of how they were to treat each other, how we’re to treat others.
Jesus had to help His disciples grapple with the need to be humble, for instance, when the sons of Zebedee and their mom asked Jesus for the boys to be at the head of the class of the twelve. The remaining ten disciples were really ticked at the two, so, obviously, they had as much work to do on the subject of humility as the two. If the original twelve needed to attend to the subject of humility then it’s probably a good bet it needs to be addressed in our lives as well.
Murray points out an aspect of humility that I’ve frequently overlooked. “Humility is often identified with penitence and contrition. As a consequence, there appears to be no way of fostering humility but by keeping the soul occupied with its sin. We have learned, I think, [through reading thus far through his book] that humility is something else and something more. We have seen in the teaching of our Lord Jesus and the Epistles how often virtue is inculcated without any reference to sin. In the very nature of things, in the whole relation of creature to the Creator, in the life of Jesus as He lives it and imparts it to us, humility is the very essence of holiness as of blessedness. It is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God. Where God is all, self is nothing.” (page 31) Our sin humbles us, but another marvelous method of God humbling us is when we become freshly aware of how awesome God is and yet how willing He is to stoop down to us in love!
There is no better way to conclude this post than to give Mr. Murray the final word. “Reckon humility to be indeed the mother-virtue, your very first duty before God, the one perpetual safeguard of the soul, and set your heart upon it as the source of all blessing.” (page 50)
I’m re-reading the passages I’ve highlighted in Murray’s book, Humility. I need a second exposure to this all-important subject of humility as Murray unpacks it.