The other day in Sunday School class, the question came up, “Is ‘humility’ an attribute of God.” I must admit that even though I have studied the Bible extensively for over 40 years, I never considered that question before. The closest I came is to an article I wrote 7 years ago Partaking Of God’s Glory
This question opened up a ‘can of worms’ for discussion. Someone said ‘humility’ is an attribute of God. My wife basically countered by pointing out that God is the pinnacle of everything there is in the universe. She took this from the ending chapters 38-42 of the Book of Job where God confronts Job. Needless to say, the discussion and research continued into our home life, which any good Sunday School class should stir. The following is what we came up with, by rightly dividing the Word of God.
Very first thing we needed to do was look at the meaning of being ‘humble’ and ‘humility’:
Humble– Having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc. Low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.
Humility– The quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.
Simply put, ‘humble’ is a description word (adjective) meaning not inflating one’s opinion of self-worth. Being ‘humbled’ is a verb, an act of being subservient. ‘Humility’ on the other hand is a noun and it’s an attribute. It is being not full of self-importance.
Now let’s look at the root word for ‘humble’ and ‘humility’. It is the Latin word ‘humilis’ which means low, close to the ground.
Second thing we needed to do was find out everywhere ‘humble’ (humbled, humbledst, humbleth, humbleness, humility, etc.) is found in the Bible. It is found 68 times. The only time it is not used in reference to man is in the following portion of Scripture which describes the one-time act of Jesus Christ, and it is the verb ‘humbled’:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)
The word ‘humbled’ in verse 8 is the Greek word ‘tapeinoō’ which means to make low or bring low.
Why is it so important to emphasize that it was a ‘one-time act’, and not an attribute of God. Read the following four verses in Scripture to get the answer:
He (God the Son) then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:26 NKJV)
By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10 NKJV)
But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9 ESV)
It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame. (Hebrews 6:6 NLT)
Nowhere in the Bible does it refer to God with the attribute noun ‘humility’, nor does it hint at it!
We do know that the attributes the Bible tells us God has are eternal:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV)
We know that God is ‘love’. When you tie the following portion of Scripture together with Philippians 2:8, the ultimate is God’s ‘love’ that brought about the one-time humbled act of the Son of God:
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 NKJV)
The first time the Son of God came to this earth was in a one-time act of being ‘humbled’:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 NKJV)
And this one-time act of allowing Himself to be ‘humbled’ had a finishing point:
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:28-30 KJV)
At His second coming, He will appear in His eternal attribute of being the High and Exalted One:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV)
Also notice in the following verse how Paul refers in the past “just as Christ was” but “He now lives by the power of God”:
Although He was crucified in weakness, He now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with Him and will have God’s power. (2 Corinthians 13:4 NLT)
What does all of this mean to us? Let’s look again at two verses used above:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…..and being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5, 8 ESV)
The Son of God offers us the attribute of ‘humility’, which we as Christians are to possess through the one-time ‘humbled’ act that Jesus demonstrated.
Keep in mind, as a human, even though someone may not have the attribute of ‘humility’, they can still demonstrate a one-time act of being ‘humbled’:
And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” (1 Kings 21:28-29 ESV)
But we as Christians are to be different by possessing the attribute of ‘humility’ all the time in our daily walk:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:5-6 NKJV)
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. (Isaiah 2:11 NKJV)
And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:10-12 NKJV)
So in conclusion, even though God ‘humbled’ Himself at one point in time, He did it as a result of His eternal attribute of ‘Love’, for God is ‘Love’! For this we are eternally grateful to the One, Who also has the attribute of being ‘Eternally Exalted’!
As the song goes:
He is worthy of worship!
He is worthy of praise!
He is worthy of honor!
He is worthy of thanks!
For further study, there is an excellent article from the folks at Got Questions on the attributes of God:
Attributes of God