How To Win Gold At The Humility Olympics

How To Win Gold At The Humility Olympics

There’s one verse in the Bible that has always made me laugh. It’s found in the Old Testament, in a book called Numbers. Strange name for a book, I realize, but it’s in there. Check it out yourself. Anyway, in chapter twelve of Numbers, verse three, it reads:

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

Two things about that verse make me grin.

First, how did the person who wrote the book of Numbers find out Moses was “…more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth?” That’s quite a statement. Maybe there was a worldwide humility contest that the writer knew about but didn’t include in the book.

Think about it.

Maybe each country held its own national humility qualifying rounds then sent its winner to the “International Humility Olympics” held every year in Budapest. We probably didn’t hear about it because the people who attended were too humble to write down their accomplishments for posterity. Contenders probably competed in events like facial expressions, receiving compliments, dress, self-deprecating humor, and most important, groveling.

Since the book of Numbers claimed Moses was the undisputed humility champ of the planet, my hunch is he took gold every year. You can’t get much more humble than that.

Now the other thing that seems comical about this verse is many Bible scholars believe Moses is the one who wrote the Book of Numbers! Think about that for a moment. The most humble person in the world tells us he is, well, the most humble person in the world. There you have it.

I don’t know how to resolve this strange dilemma. Some scholars say a later editor inserted the comment. Sounds convincing to me.

Regardless, this passage does raise an important question for the Christian: How does one know when they are genuinely humble?

In his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis crafts a fictional dialogue between an elder demon who gives advice to a younger, inexperienced demon, describing how to tempt an unsuspecting Christian. He writes,

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear.” (The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14)

Interesting strategy.

Throughout the Bible we are told to “humble ourselves” (1 Peter 5:6) and even to be “completely humble” (Ephesians 4:2). Let your eyes rest on that word “completely” for a while. The Bible tells us not to shoot for 34% humility or even 76% humility. 100% humility is the goal.

Now, if you ask me, that’s a pretty ambitious target. Whether or not it’s realistic, I’m not so sure. But I do think it’s worth aiming at.


Intuitively I think we all know it’s better to be humble. Who doesn’t have an obnoxious friend that thinks they are always one step ahead of the crowd? I can think of a few times, just this week, when a few self-promoting words crossed my lips.

Pride has a way of releasing a kind of relational stench, if you will. Proud people are just not real fun to be around. I know. I’m proud a lot. But I’m working on it.

So here’s my question. How do you know when you are humble? Do you have to enter the Humility Olympics?

My guess is this: when you are truly humble, humble in the best sense of the word, you probably won’t even realize it.

What does humility look like to you?

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