The Fruit of the Spirit - Gentleness/Humility

August 11, 2020

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long it was after God’s creation of man and woman before they began grasping for more. It could have been almost immediately, or it could have been some time before their restless urges came into play. Satan showed up in the garden and convinced them to aggressively go after what they now were convinced they needed—to be like God. Humility was gone.

Gentleness and humility are both translations of the fruit of the Spirit, and they both indicate a lack of grasping and self-absorption. The definition of humility Tim Keller shares is “self-forgetfulness.” Humility is not thinking LESS or yourself—it is thinking of yourself less.

As you and I are surrendered to the Spirit of God and remain abiding in Christ, our focus shifts from ourselves and our own natural thoughts to the mind of Christ. Philippians 2 tells us what humility looked like in Christ and how it will look in us if we become like Christ:

“…make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:2-8

All of us have significant territory to cover to be more like Jesus. Once again, it doesn’t come from effort and strategy on our part—it develops supernaturally. The more we stay close to Him, the more we become like Him.

How many people do you know who are self-absorbed, present themselves and anything with which they are associated in a grand, big way, always wanting to be bigger and impress others with who they are? They name-drop, they love titles and awards and “proofs” that they are somebody. They want to use their relationships to their own advantage. So not like Jesus. Obsession with titles and self-aggrandizement are the exact opposite of Jesus’ attitude and person and illustrate the lack of the Spirit’s residence in our lives.

The fruit of the Spirit that is gentleness or humility has a counterfeit as well. It’s a false humility that presents as inferiority. It can be manufactured or truly believed in error. Some people honestly feel inferior to others and will never step into the life God has prepared for them because of the grip of inadequacy on their minds. But this is not humility and self-forgetfulness, it is just another kind of self-absorption, thinking about yourself so much you are of little good to God or anyone.

For some people it is another type of ego-satisfaction. They don’t actually feel inferior and small, and would be offended if someone else indicated that they were. But they find the best way to attract attention and validation is to be self-effacing and self-conscious. Typically, a person like this is not consistently this way, but he/she does know when self-deprecation will work in favor of their goals. Once again, it is the complete opposite of gentleness and humility. In fact, other people, and the teams a person like this serves on, are often derailed and handicapped from accomplishing the real work to be done because they are so busy in the consuming task of making someone feel valuable and vital.

“Be careful not to mistake insecurity and inadequacy for humility! Humility has nothing to do with the insecure and inadequate! Just like arrogance has nothing to do with greatness!” – C. Joy Bell 

When we abide in Jesus, the Holy Spirit convinces us of our identity in Christ. We will develop a humble confidence that tells us we are enough to do everything God has for us to do. We don’t envy or feel inferior to others or superior to them, because we know that we have exactly what God knows we need, and are able to do everything He calls us to do.