Monday, May 19, 2008

What is False Humility - Really?

"This is a song God gave me, because He didn't really like it"
- Brian Healy of Dead Artist Syndrome,
Cornerstone Festival 2002

Much has been said over the years about the irritation that some have over musicians and artists claiming that God "gave" them a song or painting or poem or whatever. This is false humility, or so some would claim - because such a bad piece of art could never come from God.

I've been wondering - what the heck is false humility anyway? According to Wikipedia, "'false humility' consists of deprecating one's own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others." So, in other words, acting humble to get praise from God or people.

So what does the Bible say on this subject? When reading Luke 14:10 today, I had to do a double take on it: "But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests."

Is it just me, or does the Bible appear to encourage us to take a humble place just so that we will be exalted? Well, yeah - it kind of does. I searched through the Bible, and found that the term 'false humility' only appears in two places - Colossians 2:18 and 2:23. The problem is that in those two verses, the word false is not technically there. Some translations put the word false in there because the context implies it - but that is a controversial decision for many. And to be honest, neither of these verses really give a good definition of what 'false humility' really is.

I think I like the Literal Version's translation of Luke 14:10 a little better: " that when he who has invited you may come, he may say to you..." In other words, you humble yourself so that you might get exalted - but there are no promises. But you still humble yourself anyways.

If false humility is such a bad thing - wouldn't there be more in the Bible about it? Obviously, the Bible encourages us to be humble, so you don't want to be false at anything the Bible encourages us to do. But such an elaborate definition as one finds in Wikipedia just seems to go waaayyy beyond just being falsely humble.

I've never felt comfortable with labeling certain actions so absolutely as "false" humility. To
me - false means to not be true. In other words, false humility - to me - means that you are acting humble but you really aren't. Of course, some people are really good actors... so there is no way to really tell who is "acting" humble. Only God would know. So why do we like to get so irritated at people that we think are "acting" humble? Especially when we have no way of really telling - even if we go by Wikipedia's definition?

Maybe its our own lack of humility that is convicting us?


Bird said...

C. S. Lewis has a lot to say on pride and humility in Mere Christianity. The thing about humility is that it's easy to get proud for being humble. ;-)

Matt C. said...

That would probably be another good definition of false humility - bing proud about your humility. The hard thing about humility is that it doesn't come natural to everybody all the time - you have to work on it from time to time (or maybe even more than that). Sometimes, I think when people yell false humility the loudest (or, I guess, blog about it the harshest) is when they see someone working on it but not getting it right and assuming that it just false rather than just giving people a break.