Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3—NIV)

It is well known that humility is an enviable and admirable, if not essential, quality to an all-around leader. Is it any wonder that the very first condition that must be met for one to enter the kingdom of God will be humility? The unsaved, natural man will never find happiness in any of the beatitude traits let alone the first. How can we recognize authentic humility in ourselves, worthy friends, our children, and those we chose to lead us?

Peter states, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." (1 Peter 5:6). It is true that those outside of genuine faith in Christ may have certain characteristics of humility either by embracing behaviors which exhibit kind decency or by lowliness forced upon them due to circumstances and status of life. What Peter enjoins is an non-retractable act of allegiance which esteems God as Supreme and esteems the status of all men defined by God’s grace. Micah 6:8 states, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly (righteously), to love mercy (covenant loyalty), and to walk humbly (biblical piety) with your God?"

A search for markers of humility in the Bible yields solid character traits. First, humility must follow the incarnate Christ’s example in mind and action. Philippians 2:5–9 states in part, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself…therefore God also has highly exalted Him." Paul lived this truth in Acts 20:19, "serving the Lord with humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me…." Paul’s humility was an authentic reflection of His reverence for the high value of serving his Lord.

Second, humility requires that the believer replace himself with God as sovereign Lord of his life and live in communion with Him. Isaiah 57:15 states, "for thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’"

Third, humility is, in reality, false, empty humility when it is assumed to be a permanent acquisition of one’s character. Humility is counterfeit when it is mixed with expedient humility, or when it is consciously acted upon as an end in itself, a hypocritical put-on. Colossians 2:18 and  23 state, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility…these things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh."

Fourth, humility freely chooses friends and associates of similar outlook. Proverbs 16:18–19, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud."

Fifth, humility yields to the rules of biblical manners and order. Proverbs 15:33, "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility." Proverbs 18:12, "Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility." This is why believers must never be gloaters, and naturally have a strong aversion to anything that smacks of gloating.

Finally, humility is a pursuit of obedience and undergoes a constant refreshing in the heart of the believer. Proverbs 22:4, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life." This explains our Lord’s statement in Mark 9:35, "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all" and "he that is least among you all, the same shall be great" in Luke 9:48.

Genuine humility finds its best illustration by serving God with a true heart, by heartily serving others, by choosing to serve alongside others of a common heart, and by whole-hearted obedience to your Master. Anything less is incomplete. Trust and obey.