A Humble Spirit Is Not Pushy

In the following Edwards Devotional, we find strong practical and pastoral teaching on humility—a person who is humbled by the love of God tends to stop being so pushy. The quote is taken from the sermon A Christian Spirit Is a Humble Spirit (Sermon Six in Charity and Its Fruits). It has been updated for today's readers. Edwards original wording of this section is reproduced at the bottom for easy comparison. The entire sermon can be studied online at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

 

People who are influenced by the Christian spirit of love and humility will not push their own agenda in an inflexible way, whether in public or private matters. But headstrong, prideful people are typically demanding and stiff-necked. Their proposals alone must be adopted by the group. If things go another way, their unhappiness shows. They never make things easy, but often create great difficulty, attempting with all their might, it seems, to make others frustrated with them. If something doesn’t go exactly according to what they desire, they strive to undo it by setting up obstacles and reducing efficiency as much as possible.


The humble refuse to act like this. The apostle Peter condemned such an attitude when we referred to presumptuous people as “bold and willful” (2Pe 2:10). The spirit of humility brings about a willingness to yield, to work for peace, and to please others as often as possible. Humble people respect the desires and judgments of others and will comply in order to avoid making things difficult, so long as the decisions made do not conflict with truth and holiness. To emphasize, a humble person is always flexible except in the things related to the cause of his Lord and Master, which we might also call the cause of virtue. Here, he must be inflexible. But in other things—things less important and weighty because they’re of mere temporal interest—his tendency is to yield to others.


Likewise, the humble man never allows someone else’s inflexible and unreasonable attitude to provoke him to the same behavior. He doesn’t excuse himself by saying that rigid, unyielding conduct is the only way to oppose those who are rigid and unyielding. The vices he sees in others does not permit him to adopt the same vices. Instead, his response will be in accordance with these rules: “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Mt 5:40-41). Paul says, “Leave it to the wrath of God,” (Ro 12:19), indicating that believers should never seek revenge. In another place he asked, “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1Co 6:7).

 

Edwards' Original


Humility will tend to prevent a willful behavior among men. They who are under the influence of a humble spirit will not set up their own will either in public or private affairs, and be stiff and inflexible; but things must go according to what they happened first to propose, and manifest a [stiffness], or they will by no means be easy; but will make all the difficulty they can, and strive to their utmost to make others uneasy with them, and to prevent anything being done with any quietness contrary to their mind, and strive to undo what is done, if it is not according to it. The apostle Peter condemns some that were of such a spirit. 2 Peter 2:10, "Presumptuous are they, self-willed." On the contrary, humility disposes men to be yielding to others, apt, for the sake of peace and to gratify others in many things, to comply with their inclination, and to yield to their judgments to avoid making difficulty wherein they can consistently with truth and holiness. An humble man is inflexible in nothing, but in the cause of his Lord and Master, and the cause of virtue. In these he should be inflexible. But in other things of less weight, or in things which only concern his own temporal interest, he is apt to yield to others. And if he sees others are stiff, and though they seem to be unreasonable in their stiffness, merely that will not provoke him to be stiff and willful in his opposition to them, agreeable to those rules, Matthew 5:40–41, "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." Romans 12:19, "Give place unto wrath." 1 Corinthians 6:7, "Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"

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