The Blessing of Humility (Book Review)

A book on humility would make a fitting final work for a man who exemplified that virtue

Bridges insists “A life of humility is not an option for a believer to choose or reject. It is a command of God.” To teach the beauty and value of humility as well as to start on down the path toward humility he turns to the Beatitudes saying, “these expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action.”

 

I wonder if The Blessing of Humility is Jerry Bridges’ final book. It was published posthumously, but soon enough after his death that it’s very possible there was still another work somewhere in the editing process. Either way, a book on humility would make a fitting final work for a man who taught and exemplified that very virtue.

The character trait of humility is the second-most frequently taught trait in the New Testament, second only to love. At one time I counted fifty instances of love taught, either by precept or example, in the New Testament; I counted forty instances of humility. I regard these two traits as the foundational stones of Christian character. All other character traits, in one way or another, are built upon love and humility.

Yet we so seldom hear any message or read any books on these two subjects. I think this is because they are so intimidating to us. Any honest Bible teacher, whether in speaking or in writing, realizes how far short he or she comes to exemplifying either of these character traits, so there is a reluctance to teach on a subject where one has made so little progress.

This is understandable, of course, even if it is not excusable. It is difficult to teach with confidence and authority in an area where the teacher is so aware of his failings and shortcomings. And yet humility is the king of virtues and one every Christian must pursue. At some point every teacher or preacher owes it to himself and his students or congregation to research, teach, and full-out pursue it.

Bridges insists “A life of humility is not an option for a believer to choose or reject. It is a command of God.” To teach the beauty and value of humility as well as to start on down the path toward humility he turns to the Beatitudes saying, “these expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action.” In other words, when Jesus taught how to live before God and before man, he was teaching how to live with humility.

He goes on: “I can guarantee you that if you are honest with yourself and you let the Beatitudes search you, you will see yourself to be a greater sinner than you thought yourself to be.” This is true. But, of course, as he does in every one of his books, Bridges points constantly to the centrality of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. In this way the purpose of the book is not to leave the sinner wallowing in his sin, but to give him the tools to help him change and to give him the confidence that God is eager and willing to help him change. This is not a “you can do it!” and “try harder!” kind of book, but a book that is deeply reliant on the work of the gospel and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. There can be no true humility without these.

The heart of the book is 8 strong chapters, each of which addresses one of the Beatitudes. Bridges shows that the truly humble person is poor in spirit, mourns over his or her sin, is meek toward God and other people, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful toward other people, is pure in heart, is a peacemaker, and considers himself or herself blessed when persecuted or reviled for righteousness’ sake. This is an intimidating list of virtues that none of us will ever perfectly attain to on this side of the grave. Yet the formidable list is also a profound challenge for we can have confidence that it is God’s joy to give us these in greater measure as we pursue him through his Word. It is God’s joy to have us imitate his Son who was ultimately and beautifully humble.

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