Ladder of Humility – Part 1

Humility isn’t something to aspire after or work toward. It’s discovered over time, unbeknownst to the one becoming all the more humble…and only as one is willing to lovingly submit to God and unswervingly hold fast to a life of obedience. It begins with a desire for God over self. It concludes with a life in union with God, a purified love for others, and a forgetfulness of self. It’s hard to be humble.

St. Benedict (AD 480-547) added a chapter within his Rule of Life as a guide to humility. Although set forth as a blueprint for the life of the monks within his monasteries, its filled with wisdom for today’s Christian. He called these the “Steps to Humility” and the steps are rungs of a ladder. The ascent of Benedict’s ladder is toward humility, whereas others like Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) write about the downward descent of humility (in contrast to the upward road of pride). Regardless, the steps toward humility take a lifetime to achieve, and require daily choices to be prayerful, loving, content, and gracious.

The first degree of humility is that one always have the fear of God before one’s eyes, shunning all forgetfulness, and remain mindful of all that God has commanded. In this degree one makes a serious effort to live a good life: careful about thoughts, avoiding self will, not pursuing lusts, and participating fully in the ongoing process toward full conversion and Christlikeness.

The second degree of humility is carrying out the Word of the Lord, not loving one’s own will or seeking to fulfill one’s own desires. In this degree of humility there is a renunciation of self will and desire, and an earnest seeking of God’s will and desire.

The third degree of humility is discovered as one subjects her/himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord. It’s here that one submits to a Superior who is her/himself seeking to live in imitation of Christ. Submission and obedience are tied together, lived out in an atmosphere of love and trust.

The fourth degree of humility is accepting with patience and even-temperment all hard and distasteful things as one is commanded to fulfill, even injuries that are inflicted by self or others. To patiently endure all difficulties of life with equal acceptance is what it means to lean into this degree of humility.

We will pick up next time on the subsequent four of the twelve degrees of humility. In the meantime, ponder the first four and ask the Lord to enlighten your heart in areas where you sense resistance and/or dissonance. Invite the Holy Spirit to purge what’s most needed in your heart so that you are open to consider the invitation of Christ toward greater and more sincere humility of heart. To ponder, pray, and then to pursue humility is indeed the way of the Christ follower…yesterday, today and forever.


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

Steve is a graduate of Northwestern College (IA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.). His prior ministry includes serving on the pastoral staff at Grace Chapel (Lexington, MA) and as president of Vision New England. Since July 1, 2003 Steve has served as founder and president of Leadership Transformations, director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building, and adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Ministry department at Gordon-Conwell. He is the author of sixteen books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective),  Baker bestseller Becoming a Healthy Church, and Crafting a Rule of Life (IVP). He lives in the Boston area with his wife Ruth and is the proud father of two grown children, Rebekah and Nathan, daughter in-love Ashley, and papa to his beloved granddaughter, Brenna Lynn and twin grandsons, Aiden Joseph and Carson Stephen. “My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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