Society was very stratified in the ancient world in which Peter lived. The ruling elite had what today might be called a “commanding presence.” Around them were clustered people of lower rank, and the lowest rank of all belonged to a slave.
Humility was the proper attitude of those of lower rank toward those of a higher one. The Greek word for humility carries the meaning of “lowly,” “insignificant,” “weak,” and “poor.” It describes people without status and power in society. In the world outside of Judaism and Christianity, the word humble was associated with those of low status, and to act humbly would not necessarily have been commended as appropriate conduct of free people.
Read 1 Peter 5:5-7. Given the context and time in which they lived, what is so remarkable about what Peter wrote here?
In the Bible, humility is seen in a different light from how it was seen in the times and culture in which Peter lived. Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 from the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), a verse that is also quoted in James 4:6. In the Old Testament, part of God’s work in history is to lay low the high and mighty (Isa. 13:11, Isa. 23:9, Job 40:11).
One’s proper attitude toward God is humility. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6, NKJV). Humility, rather than pride, should characterize the Christian’s relationship, not only with God but with each other (1 Pet. 5:5).
Christians, even Christian leaders, are aware that they are sinners saved by God’s grace. In this most important sense, then, we are all equals, and before the Cross we should all be humbled. And this humility must be revealed in our relationship with others, especially those over whom we have charge. Sure, anyone could be humble before God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Also, it’s relatively easy to be humble before those who are above us, who have power over us, and who are “higher” in status than we are. The true test comes when we reveal humility toward those who are “under” us, who have no power over us. That’s the kind of humility Peter is talking about here.
|What is it about the Cross and what it represents that should always help keep us humble?|