Humility in Practice

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes a “Level 5 Leader” as one who is not only effective, but has a healthy dose of humility as well. In fact, his claim is that the characteristic that separates very good leaders from the most elite, world-class leaders is humility.

But what does this humility look like when you know you’re right? When there’s a problem on the horizon that no one else seems to see or understand? What if you alone have the skill, experience, expertise or ability to step up and seize an opportunity but no one knows? Does humility require you to sit there quietly and never bring your own qualifications to light?

In Philippians 3, Paul lists all of his credentials: unquestionable Hebrew heritage, proper upbringing, top-notch education, a scholar, passionate about righteousness, and blameless. His is a résumé pretty much anyone would be happy to have. However, in verse 8 he says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul knew that compared to Jesus, his impressive credentials were worthless.

However, humility did not prevent Paul from using his heritage, training and skills to further the Kingdom. After his encounter with Jesus, Paul traveled spreading the gospel. He was a powerful speaker and brilliant theologian. He was charismatic and drew enormous crowds wherever he went. Because of his ministry, countless people were added to the church.

Likewise, humility should not prevent us from using any skill, training or tool at our disposal in the service of the Kingdom. Humility should never diminish our commitment to joining God on his mission and doing good work. At times, it may be necessary to speak up about your particular strengths and abilities for the sake of doing your work well. However, always do so with an appropriate spirit, doing your work with humility and making Jesus more apparent in every thing that you do.

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