Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why Pursue Humility in Business?

Last week, we discussed how humility in business is often motivated by a utilitarian ethic. For many in business, the pursuit of humility is encouraged because humility works and perhaps it's even good for business.

But is this sufficient or even acceptable motivation for the Christian? I think we all know intuitively that it isn't. We know that humility pursued simply for the sake of gaining influence or advancing career goals isn't real humility at all.

If we're not meant to pursue humility in this way, how then should we be motivated for humility? I know it's a strange question to ask - why should you pursue humility in your daily work?

Should humility be pursued for it's own sake? Or does the Bible offer us particular motivations to seek humility?

Here are a few thoughts from the Bible regarding humility and why we might be motivated to pursue it.
  • We seek to be humble because we want to experience God's favor. A prime motivation for humility is that we want God to look upon us - we want His favor upon us - we want more of His grace - we desire more of Him.
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be,
declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Isaiah 63:2
  • We seek to be humble because we know that God is opposed to the proud. Unlike the pragmatist, we seek to be humble because we fear God. The following words ring true to us and we take them seriously upon our hearts -
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another,
for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

1 Peter 5:5
  • We ought to pursue humility because our Savior exemplified humility for us in every way. This is one of the rare occasions in the New Testament that we're encouraged to look to Christ's example as a point of motivation. Paul lends weight to his exhortation for humility by pointing to Jesus' ultimate condescension for our sake.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility
count others more significant than yourselves.
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 made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

Phillipians 2:3-7
  • We also pursue humility because we trust that God will reward us. This is different from the utilitarian view because it looks to God in faith. It doesn't view God as a vending machine dispensing career advancement or riches, simply by slotting in the coins of humility. Instead, it looks to God, trusting that He will provide the reward in His own time, in His own way.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you

1 Peter 5:6
  • We demonstrate humility in our dealings with others because we have received much from God. Have you had success at work? Undoubtedly, you've achieved it because God has provided help through others. If you have skills to apply to your work, it because God has equipped you for it. Are you well regarded? It is God who has granted you favor.

    Most of all, you have received mercy and grace from God such that you no longer labor under God's wrath but under His pleasure.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

1 Corinthians 4:6

Why do you pursue humility? Anything I left out?
Please share your thoughts with us.


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Wonderful job ESI on covering the topic. I'm afraid that my reasons for pursuing humility border on the perverse -

I seek humility because that's what keeps me from humiliating myself in public - something that I greatly fear

I realize this is probably a totally inappropriate motive - but it's true - I have rather a great love of keeping my posterior regions well "covered" and a humble attitude seems to the best preventative for an otherwise strong case of foot-in-mouth disease.

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I love halfmom's comment! Which leads me to my own thoughts... I'm not sure I can really pursue humility. It's something God works in me despite me. But I do think I can place myself in His hands. Now that's a place where everything can change, in time.

Every Square Inch said...


Your honest answer reveals your humility. :-)


I'm wondering why you think humility cannot be pursued...we seek to be loving...why not humility? Although, the idea of placing yourself in God's hands is the essence bearing fruit in any area in our lives. It sounds like a form of humility to me.

Real Live Preacher said...

Of all those you listed, I appreciate "Because Jesus exemplified it" and "because we have received much" the most.

I wonder if we could state this very simply: Real humility happens only when you are truly humble. Anything else is acting.

Now I really really really like people who will act humbly while they seek to become humble. The "fake it till you make it" thing is worthy of respect.

If I'm seeking true humility, I'm going to have to ask for it. and wait.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

To RLP - I'm afraid that you have just "asked" yourself in to a multitude of trials - for I fear that humility, like patience, when prayed and asked for, is taught through trials rather than given.


Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, Again another helpful post to keep us in the narrow way yet living and freeing way in Jesus. And I really like the comments here as well. Thanks to all.

For what I might share on it, I don't know. But there's no question that Scripture wants us to seek true humility, and even says so in an OT passage somewhere, (Seek humility and justice- or something like that). This is part of our calling in following the one who said, "I am gentle and humble in heart".

Every Square Inch said...


I think there is truth to what you're saying and converging with LL's point. Real humility comes from God. It isn't only about external behavior, it's about our heart desires and motivations.

And, only God can change our hearts.

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't pursue humility...we need to (and we're instructed by Scripture) to seek humility by clothing ourselves with considering others more serving each other ...all the while trusting that God is working in us to refine our hearts as we do these things .

Every Square Inch said...

Halfmom - Yes, sometimes there are prayers I am afraid to pray. ;-)
Often God does use trials to bring forth humility. Nothing like suffering to curtail our arrogance and cultivate humility.

But hopefully, we can also learn through scripture.

Ted - your point is spot on and similar to what RLP said about Jesus' example. It's almost unthinkable for the followers of Jesus, who demonstrated ultimate humility to seek any path other than the path of humility. Yet, James and John walked with Jesus for 3 years but still didn't get it. How similar I am to them in this regard

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Yes ESI, I am at a point in my life where I would so love to learn through scripture and the help of others in its practical application to my life rather than having to face the trials that teach me the principle personally.

One of our pastors calls it the "one-bump" method - if you see me bump my head on a low hanging beam, do you need to bump your own head in order to duck?

However, there are days when I feel like I'm on the bruised head track - even though the bumps are simply repetitions on a theme. The cunning of the evil one and the element of surprise have been used against me more than once.

Here's to humility, however it comes, because it's like Christ, it is a worthy goal no matter the delivery person.

Mark said...

Another outstanding post, Andre. A great reference for others.

Every Square Inch said...

Thanks, mark.

Mike said...

Helpful comments everybody. Great verses on humility on Andre, helpful to widen the scope and dimensions of humility. In terms of applying humility in the workplace, I mostly think of exemplifying Christ for the sake of sharing Christ to others, by way of godly character; which when the time comes, lends credibility for when I share the gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17
14But(P) thanks be to God, who in Christ always(Q) leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads(R) the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among(S) those who are being saved and among(T) those who are perishing, 16(U) to one a fragrance from death to death,(V) to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient[a] for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your very helpful thoughts on humility in the workplace.

What do you find most challenging about pursuing humility at work?

the Fool said...

A very interesting post.

From my own perspective I persue humility because all are equal - who am I to consider myself greater/better than my staff and colleagues.
God loves, (and Jesus died for), each of us.

However we must not forget our work responsibility - which at times will mean that we need to ask others to serve us (professionally speaking), or to carry out the more menial tasks.

Every Square Inch said...

TFS, (the fool said? wow, what an online identity! I'll just abbreviate to TFS, if you don't mind)

You're right - at the foot of the cross all are equal before God in that we are all sinners.

You also touch on something interesting. How do you navigate humble service when you're in authority and have to exercise it...sometimes for disciplinary/management purposes.

It can get tricky - but I think your answer on serving those we lead is a good perspective