Today Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of our greatest Presidents. However, at that time he had many political enemies including Edwin Stanton, who looked down on Lincoln with great disdain. Among other unkind epithets, Stanton described Lincoln as “a long armed ape,” an “ignoramus” and “the original Gorilla.”
However, when it came time to replace Simon Cameron, his first Secretary of War, Lincoln appointed Stanton to the job. His Cabinet was shocked. But Lincoln believed Stanton was the best man for the job.
During the Civil War, Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When Edwin Stanton received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. When the President was told what Stanton had said, he replied, “If Stanton said I’m a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it.
Lincoln was not only “honest Abe,” he was “humble Abe.” Our word of the week is humble.
Humility is a forgotten virtue in our day. It fact, it is almost a scorned quality. Often a humble person in our culture is perceived as being weak. cowardly or fragile.
Christianity teaches the very opposite. Peter said, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5). James exhorted, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (Jas 4:10). The wise man said. “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov.11:2).
Part of our problem with humility is a misunderstanding. Humility is not self depreciation. R.C. Trench observed that humility, “does not demand undue self-depreciation but rather lowliness of self estimation and freedom from vanity.” The humble person is free from pride, arrogance and a spirit of haughtiness in his accomplishments and achievements. His success, whether it is physical, material, financial or spiritual is received with appreciation and enjoyed with thankfulness to God.
The Greek philosophers despised humility because they believe it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity and worthlessness. This is not true. Jesus was humble (Matt 11:29). He lived a humble life in his relationships with others. He demonstrated His humility in washing the disciples feet (John 13:4-17). And He exemplified humility in dying on the cross for our sins.
If we are to become like Christ, we must develop the mind-set of Jesus that Paul described in Philippians 2:5-8. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
A humble person, like Jesus, focuses more on the Father than on self. He is more interested in others, than his own personal desires. It is not a belittling spirit, but a giving and sharing spirit. It is not self directed, but others directed.
A humble person also recognizes his spiritual inadequacy and his inability to save himself. There is a realization and admission that “I need the Lord.” The prophet was right when he wrote, “The way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). Indeed “the steps of a good man are ordered (directed ) by the Lord” (Ps.37:23). This is the essence of humility.
As we live in a society that is self-centered and constantly looking out for “number one,” may we seek to be like Jesus. To be humble. To resist pride. To really see ourselves honestly and accurately. When we do, the Lord will bless us, and He will lift us up!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman