Humility is more than an opposite to pride…
. . . or an antidote to arrogance. It is the glue of deep love; the scent of nobility in friendships; and a sweet fragrance in society. Humility is powerful, even more so than pride. Yet both pride and humility are shaped by ambition.
All of us have met ambitious people—those who became strong and controlling. They use others, deceive others, and walk over others on their way to success. Yet their success is, at best, fleeting. Humility, on the other hand, has a vastly greater reach than the proud and ambitious climber can ever achieve. How so? By the impact the humble person has on others.
Always remember this: both the proud and the truly humble are ambitious—the presence of an ambition is not where the difference is found. Instead, the key question of life is this: what is our greatest ambition and the aim of that ambition? Is it selfish or selfless? The ambition of the selfless soul touches eternity, but the selfish soul dies as a wisp of empty vanity that fades to nothing.
Think about these things for a moment. Moses was humble. Paul was humble. Yet both were more powerful than figures like Alexander the Great, or any of the Caesars of Rome. Indeed, God, in Christ, offers us the epitome of humility.
A selfless ambition is to care for another’s success with an energy and devotion that surprises the recipient. Selfless ambition wants others to smile . . . to find joy . . . to succeed and to celebrate life. The selfless look for ways to feed the hungry, heal the sick, guard the widows. The selfish man, by contrast, wants others to celebrate his own ambition . . . to cater . . . to worship. The claim of Eden that “you can be like God” was a lie. The “god” of selfishness is a black hole, like its first originator who travels the earth to devour others. The true God seeks to build up others, and to draw others to discover that there is greater blessing in giving than in receiving. The true God has a spreading goodness.
The proud soul can shape its world only as far as his powers can rule, but the soul who lives with a Godly humility has no boundaries. No one is afraid to join the ambitions of a humble leader—“Come,” he says, “give all you have to the poor and then join me in caring for others!” So, too, pride has no place in heaven, but the selfless person brings heaven to earth. A selfish ambition ends with the final breath of life. The selfless man or woman looks well beyond their final breath to be with the One whose breath is eternal life.
What differs, then, is the object of one’s ambition. God is both ambitious and humble. His ambition is to share his love with the world, and to do that he sent his beloved Son so that all who believe in him can participate in God’s eternal shared glory. Jesus, as the God on two legs, humbled himself to take on humanity—not grasping after his divine prerogatives. He humbled himself by taking on human sin for all who believe—by becoming sin. This was the ultimate humility and he did it for us. Even the Father was humble—by forsaking the Son for our sake—so that we can come into the union with Christ, and through him, into union with the Father.
Ambition and humility are united in God. Ambition without humility is death—the realm of Satan. The greatest ambition of all is God’s resolve to share his heart with us, forever, and that only comes through the humility of crucifixion. That is a true love and a worthy ambition to pursue!
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron helped to launch Cor Deo UK in 2011, and retired from the ministry at the end of 2015. He continues to blog at his “A Spreading Goodness“. His doctoral thesis on Richard Sibbes is still available from Cor Deo and is well worth reading. For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Ron is now a pastoral care consultant with Barnabas International. In this role he provides care, coaching, encouragement, and educational services to those in overseas cross-cultural ministries. Go to Barnabas International for more information about this unique ministry and for a link that offers support options.