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When "Humble" Goes Too Far

The book of Numbers tells us that Moses was extremely humble, "more humble than any other person on earth in his time" (Num. 12:3) in his time. Take a moment to consider that in light everything else we know about him—mainly his role as the leader of a massive, infamous group of Hebrews—and perhaps you'll agree that humility in a figure of such importance must have been an extremely admirable trait.

Moses' humility protected him from the pitfalls of pride and arrogance, true. But did he allow his lack of self-worth to become its own form of selfishness?

C.S. Lewis said that true humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of oneself less. When Moses was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he was the epitome of humility . . . but he was also thinking purely of himself. In begging God to choose someone else, protesting that he was under-qualified, pointing out the flaws that made him weak, Moses' mind was fixed upon his own will, not on God's. Yes, he was modest, but that self-deprecation had become its own kind of pride. The kind that prevented him from seeing God's vision as more masterful and sovereign than his own.

I love that C.S. Lewis quote, and I feel this is a very real snare for the believer. In our mission to be images of humility, we can make the mistake of falling into a trap of unhealthy self-deprecation instead. They are not the same thing. While one is a willingness to submit to God, the other can be a prideful—yes, prideful—declaration to God that He screwed up when He crafted us, that we are worthless, that we are incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile. Who are we to tell Him that we could have designed ourselves more perfectly than He did, or that He's wrong to value us as boundlessly as He does, or that other people can do all things through Christ who strengthens them, but not us because we're far too weak for that?

It's an interesting irony: that self-deprecation, so often mistaken for humility, can be just another source of self-absorption and pride. To borrow C.S. Lewis' wisdom, we need to spend less time thinking of ourselves—even if that time is spent critiquing our own faults. Instead of convincing ourselves that we're worthless, when Christ's sacrifice for us is evidence that we do hold worth to him, we need to fill our minds with the needs of others and with the will of God. As we learn to fill our minds with His will over ours, we will see Him work His wonders through us.

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