• Humbled


How do I humble myself?

Humility, according to the Bible, is not something we can just up and do. Both the negative and positive examples of Scripture—from Pharaoh to Rehoboam, from Josiah to Ahab, from Hezekiah to Manasseh, and even to Christ himself—teach us that humility first comes from the hand of God. He initiates the humbling of his creatures. And once he has, the question confronts us: Will you receive it? Will you humble yourself in response to his humbling hand, or will you kick against him?

This concise, accessible study of Scripture’s humble-self language uncovers two surprising lessons about the pursuit of humility in the Christian—both what we cannot do and also what steps we can take.


what people are saying

  • “Do you ever tune out when the doctor reminds you to eat a healthy diet and maintain an exercise program? You know you need to do those things, but perhaps what you are lacking is a timely or compelling why to fuel your motivation. If this is how you regard the scriptural exhortation to humble yourself, the pages that follow will help you tune in to many timely and compelling whys. Humbled will give you a new perspective of the myriad of ways God works in your life.” 

    Gloria Furman, author of Labor with Hope and A Tale of Two Kings

  • “David is once again a very reliable guide. He is careful with Scripture and always clear and pastoral. In this short book, he takes an important piece of humility—’humble yourself’—and lets us delight in being a little smaller and a little less special.” 

    Ed Welch, author, counselor, and faculty member at CCEF

  • “Humility is a counter-intuitive invitation to holy bliss and human flourishing—to receive with gratitude our creatureliness and to live so that the glory of God shines through us. This book from David Mathis is a powerful and concise treatment of an indispensable virtue.”

    Trevin Wax, vice president for research and resource development at the North American Mission Board and visiting professor at Wheaton College, author of Rethink Your Self, This Is Our Time, and Counterfeit Gospels.

  • “The Bible’s call to humility is clear and yet few of us pursue it with the diligence of which the Bible speaks. What David Mathis has given us in this book is a brief, clear, sober, and most importantly humble call for the pursuit of the uniquely human virtue of humility to the glory of God. Humility does not come naturally. Nothing that glorifies Christ ever does. David Mathis reminds us that it is the pleasure of the Holy Spirit to direct us in humility and thus make us more like Christ, who amazingly humbled himself. This is a quick read, yet long-lasting and encouraging in its impact.”

    Anthony Carter, lead pastor of East Point Church, author of Running from Mercy and Black and Reformed

  • “Although humility is a quality many of us admire, very few of us understand its significance or desire to pursue it personally. In Humbled, David Mathis has contributed a work that I believe will unlock an essential teaching of Scripture that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I am so grateful for how David uses Scripture faithfully to show us why humility is to be desired, and yet he is realistic with the difficult work that must take place to produce humility in our hearts. It is truly a work that is initiated by God but one that we participate in. David gives practical advice on how to position ourselves for this deep work of God in our lives and reminds us that humility is at the heart of the gospel.”

    Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor, Providence Church, Frisco, Texas; council member, The Gospel Coalition

  • Humbled is a small but mighty book, packed with biblical wisdom and countercultural insight. Mathis is incisive, eloquent, and rigorously faithful to Scripture. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially to my fellow young Christians.”

    Jaquelle Crowe Ferris, author, This Changes Everything; co-founder, TheYoungWriter.com

  • “David Mathis serves us all by pointing us to a topic we can’t think too much about. I give much of my time to leading conversations about race and racism. The number one thing I wish we all had more of in the conversation is humility. Mathis reminds us that God is the One who humbles us. Read this book to learn how you should respond to His merciful, humbling hand—however heavy it may seem.”

    Isaac Adams, Assistant Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Founder, United? We Pray

  • “David Mathis serves us all by pointing us to a topic we can’t think too much about. I give much of my time to leading conversations about race and racism. The number one thing I wish we all had more of in the conversation is humility. Mathis reminds us that God is the One who humbles us. Read this book to learn how you should respond to His merciful, humbling hand—however heavy it may seem.”

    Isaac Adams, Assistant Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Founder, United? We Pray

  • “This book offers sweet relief for those being humbled and a clear path of preparation for those in more clement seasons. Mathis weaves insights from the stories of kings in the Bible, culminating in the humility of the King of kings. This powerful book would make an excellent study for Sunday school, small groups, or leadership teams.”

    Gerrit Dawson, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge

  • “In Humbled, Mathis has once again given the church a resource that not only engages the heart and mind, but is also clearly purposed to equip our hands for daily Christian living. This work feels as timely as it does timeless. David is faithful to let the word of God do the heavy lifting as he clarifies, at times with great nuance, the purpose and process behind the command to ‘humble yourself.’ With every passing chapter, I felt a growing excitement at the blessing that could reach my own heart, home, and city if God were to do this kind of Humbled work in me.”

    Matt Bradner, Staff Development, Campus Outreach


the author

David Mathis is executive editor of desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. His articles and messages are available online at desiringGod.org. David is married to Megan and is the father of four children.

author q&a

Why did you write this book?

First, it was a question in my own mind: How do I “humble myself”? The Bible commends humility, and condemns pride, over and over. I genuinely want to be more humble — so how do I “humble myself”? I went looking for all the Bible’s references to self-humbling, whether “humble yourself” or “he humbled himself” or “they humbled themselves.” What I found was humbling to myself and my own pretty American instincts. Thinking other Christians might have the same question as I did — how do I humble myself? — I first started on writing a single article about it. But my colleague Marshall Segal encouraged me to take a step back, see all that the Bible had to say about self-humbling, and make it a series of articles. That series led to this book.

For whom did you write this book?

In one sense, for ordinary, average Christians, who genuinely want to be humble (because God has put that desire in our hearts!) and want to know what, if anything, can I do to pursue humility? But in particular, I had college students and young adults in mind while writing. I was in college when I first learned how shockingly prideful I was, and when I first started to desire to be humble and perhaps even take intentional steps to “humble myself.” My hope is that young adults in particular might be helped by this book in their very formative season of life.

What do you hope readers do after reading your book? How do you hope they are shaped by what they read?

My hope and prayer is that after reading this book, some readers might take fresh delight in being a creature of the living God, in the world he runs, with the very little control we have. Not even self-humbling is ours to initiative and effect! I hope readers will be freshly happy to be dependent, small (though remarkably dignified) creatures of the living God, ready and eager to receive, even welcome, his humbling hand when it comes, and even now seek patterns of life, daily and weekly, that would have our hearts ready for self-humbling, and to welcome God’s uncomfortable work, when it comes.

How do you define humility?

Humility is a virtue in the creature that acknowledges and embraces and gladly lives in light of the God-ness of God. A basic confession of humility is “He is God; I am not.” The more we then learn and know and enjoy about this God gives shape and texture and detail to humility as it grows and matures, and humility will have necessarily manifestations toward fellow creatures as well, but it begins before God: “He is God. I am not — and I embrace that.”

The Bible commands us to humble ourselves, but how do we do that, exactly?

What answers do you give in this book? The big surprise to me in studying the texts about self-humbling is how responsive to God self-humbling is. The context for the command to “humble yourself” is never bright, sunny, careless days. It’s always conflict, discomfort, suffering, pain, chaos. First, God’s humbling hand descends. Then the question comes: Will you humble yourself? Will you embrace his uncomfortable, even painful, work, or try to explain it away or even kick back against it? Still, there are some habits and patterns we can put into place in our lives to prepare us for God’s humbling work when it comes. That’s the second lesson — and a very important one — from the self-humbling texts.

Explain how “our humbling, at God’s lead, involves our minds and hearts and wills and behaviors.”

Christ is Lord is all — not just all nations and all history, but all of us — body and behavior, mind and heart. When God’s humbling hand descends through external circumstances in our lives, he means to work on us from the outside in, and then inside back out. God is not looking for quick external and behavioral modifications to accommodate the challenges posed by his humbling work. He means to humble us to the core — in how we think about him and his world, and how we feel, and our resolves and decisions of our will. In our busy, hurried lives, we can be prone to quick behavioral adjustments to try to work around new external obstacles that we encounter. But God isn’t typically so interested in our timing. He’s far less concerned with our sense of efficiency and productivity. He has his “proper time” for exalting his people, and often means for them to linger in, and not rush their way out of, the painful circumstances his loving hand brings into our lives to shape our thinking and feeling and willing before those changes then work their way back out to our behavior.

You devote chapters to the roles of the Word, prayer, church membership, and fasting in our becoming self-humbling. How did you choose these specific topics and why are they important?

Word, prayer, and fasting simply fell out of the self-humbling texts. They were unavoidable. Church membership, or fellowship in the Christian life, required a little bit of an inference, but I doubt it’s one many readers will resist. The Bible’s corporate context is thicker than ours today. As many of us can testify, some of the most humbling life situations come in the context of the local church, particularly when we’ve covenanted together with each other to be the church to each other, warts and all.

How has the prevailing message of “you are special” affected the way we view ourselves and our humility before God?

There is a specialness in Christ that every Christian can appreciate. And it’s a specialness *together*, not a specialness that’s over and against each other. This is important. There is a declaration of “you are special” that is true and humbling, and another one that cultivates pride, depending on context. In our age of self-focus and self-expression, many of us love to feed our minds the elixir of “I am special. I’m a cut above others. I can bend the rules when I want, even though others shouldn’t. I know better than others.” It’s a deadly potion.

What do we learn from Christ’s humbling himself about how we are to self-humble?

For one, you are never above self-humbling. The greatest man who ever lived humbled himself. And he was not only great but perfect. So self-humbling doesn’t require sin. Even the sinless Son of God, as man, humbled himself. Now, usually we sinners bear some measure of fault and blame and have something to repent of in our self-humbling, but not always. Self-humbling doesn’t require sin. For what it’s worth, human and humble begin with the same three letters. True humanity is humility before God, saying, gladly, “You are God; I am not — and I’m happy about that.”

press inquiries

For press inquiries regarding Humbled,
please contact press@bhpublishinggroup.com
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