What is love if not the act of freely and cheerfully giving?


We have all heard of the famous verse that goes, ‘humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up. – James 4:10’ What exactly does humility mean? How does God lift up the humble? In this article, I will define humility in four main ways: humility as selflessness, humility as listening, humility as obedience and humility as ‘setting aside’. Ultimately, the thread that ties all the above sub-definitions of humility is sacrifice. Humility is a virtue that sacrifices the self for the sake of others.

Humility as selflessness.

St. Paul urges us in his letter to the Phillipians to not just think about our own affairs, but to think of others. This is a call to go against our nature to ensure that we have ourselves covered before we look at our neighbours. The heart of man may be deceitful, but it is also capable of love. It is capable of reaching out to someone beyond themselves and their issues. Humility is the act of being able to put the needs of the other person before yours. It is looking at the other with compassion so as to not pass judgement but instead, be a helping hand and a source of hope.

Humility as ‘listening’

Listening is an art that involves giving the other person your full attention and focus. Listening is more than just hearing. It begs that we sit and involve ourselves in what is being said so we give a befitting response. Listening is a channel through which we share in the humanity of the other and we invite them into our space bearing in mind that they are also inviting you into their space. How is this humility? Listening carefully determines our next course of action. When we listen poorly, we are likely to act or respond poorly. The act of listening forces us to look outward of ourselves, peer into the words of the other, extract meaning, and hopefully, adequately respond. Through listening, we get the chance to understand the other and thus gain the other’s perspective.

Humility as obedience

Obedience is best done when it comes from a place of love and understanding. God calls us to obey His word, for obedience is better than sacrifice. Is that an order though? No. When we understand the laws of God, and seek to build a relationship with Him, we are drawn towards Him more and more. Being drawn toward a Holy God means that we have to die to sin. Dying to sin does not work unless we commit ourselves, whole-heartedly to this venture. This means that we need to set our proclivities aside and look to our Saviour who enables us to overcome them. In the hour before His passion, Jesus Christ prayed to God in agony and asked that if He was willing, He should take away the cup of suffering away from Him. Jesus knew the kind of pain He was going to face. Nevertheless, He tied His will to the Father’s and the hardest of tasks was eventually done.

Humility as ‘setting aside’

We all have a sense of identity, or we try to find our sense of identity. This can be tied to various things e.g. your work, family, your place of worship etc. Our identities inform who we are and how we relate with other people. Additionally, they shape how we expect to be treated by other people. When you are a leader, there is a certain way you expect others to treat you or even refer to you. Our sense of identity is so strong, and we hold on to it so dearly because it touches who we are as individuals. Now imagine you were forced to set aside your identity for the sake of someone else. Someone who did not deserve it. It is quite the sacrifice. It is being torn away from all that you hold dear and identify with for the sake of someone else who is not obliged to be appreciative of the sacrifice. Jesus Christ, however, took on this sacrifice willingly so we could have eternal life. He laid aside His royalty and came down in the form of a child so we can be saved from our sins. It is because of this that He sits at the right hand of the Father and His name is above all other names.

God honours humility because it is His way of doing things. God is love. What is love if not the act of freely and cheerfully giving. Love focuses on the other. It soughts for the happiness of the other. 


Article written by:  MaryJoy Karanja

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu


See more news