Saturday, February 15, 2014

A 52 Word Journey for Bible Study in 2014:Words 5 and 6: Humility and Compassion

In January, I began a series of blog posts summarizing what I'm calling my 52 word journey of Bible study. I'm taking one word from Scripture a week and studying it as part of my personal Bible study. As a means of helping to organize my jumbled notes (and often equally jumbled mind!), I'm sharing my journey of study on my blog. Over the last two weeks, I've studied the words humility and compassion.

Humility (or Humble/Humbly)

Humility, in my humble opinion (pun intended), is an often misunderstood concept. Too often humility is perceived to be an attitude of self-debasement. The Scriptures seem to indicate, however, that humility really is recognizing our need for powerful, benevolent God and acting in such a way that we put others before ourselves. C.S. Lewis, I think, summarized it well when he said, "humility is not thinking less of yourself'; it is think of yourself less".

In the Old Testament, it is amazing to me how the Psalmists and Solomon in the book of Proverbs indicate what God does for those who humbly recognize who they are in comparison to God:
  • Psalm 18:27-"You [God] save the humble"
  • Psalm 25:9-"He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way"
  • Psalm 147:6- "The Lord sustains the humble"
  • Psalm 149:4-"He crowns the humble with salvation"
  • Proverbs 3:34-"He mocks the proud mockers but gives grace to the humble"
  • Proverbs 11:2- "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom"
Although I did not share the complete verses in each of the above, most of them describe the contrast between pride and humility, which is important. God spiritually provides for those who yield to Him.

In the New Testament, the use of the words humility or humble is often a translation of the Greek word tapeinophrosynÄ“ or some variant of that word which provides a better picture of the concept of humility than simply the word humility. In Strong's Concordance,  this Greek word is defined as a "deep sense of one's [moral] littleness". If we are able to understand this and make this our attitude, it will influence how we  treat others.

While many of the verses in the Old Testament about humility note what God does for the humble, many of the verse in the New Testament about humility note how we live out humility in our own lives. In two verses, Colossians 3:12 and 1 Peter 5:5,  Paul and Peter both note how we are to clothe ourselves with humility--making that attitude part of our identity in Christ. The most challenging verse on humility to me, though, comes from Philippians 2, when Paul gives the ultimate example of humility-- Christ lowering himself to live life as a man and die on the cross for our sins. Christ has no littleness; He is the Son of God. He was willing, though, to take on that "littleness" because of His love for us. What a challenge to us to take on our own littleness and live humbly.


One of the most striking things about the word compassion in Scripture is that during the time in history when Scripture was written, people thought that such attitude/emotion-fueled action emanated from one's bowels or womb. One words in Hebrew translated to compassion in the Old Testament is "racham", meaning "womb" or "compassion", and one of the words in Greek is "splagchnizomai" meaning "to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)". Perhaps this sounds a bit gross and ignorant in light of today's understanding of biology and emotion, but at the same time, it is indicative of how deep our compassion should be.

In Psalm 103, David  beautifully describes God's compassion for us throughout the Psalm. In verse 4, David not only notes how God saves us from the pit, He crowns us with compassion. He not only saves us from destruction, he treats us as royalty.  In verse 8, David ties God's compassion to His grace, love, and patience. In verse 13, David writes of God's compassion for us in the context of a father's compassion.

In the book of Matthew, he notes multiple times that Jesus "had compassion" on the crowds and the sick. Compassion was not just an emotion. Jesus lived it. When He had compassion on the crowds who came to hear Him speak He fed them (Matthew 14:13-21). When He had compassion on the sick; He healed them (Matthew 20:29-34). This is the same kind of compassion we are to clothe ourselves (Colossians 3:12) with and live out in our lives (Ephesians 4:32).

Previous posts:

 Introduction to the 52 Word Journey

 Words 1 and 2: Confidence and Peace

Words 3 and 4: Perseverance and Works

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