The Christian Moral Code, Part 3: Humility

Mark Rubinstein

Humility is the twelfth commandment of Christianity: Thou shalt not forget thy subservience to God nor place thyself above others. The first half of this commandment (humility toward the divine) is empha sized in the Hebrew Bible. Despite some difficulty separating divine from interpersonal humility, the second half of the commandment only comes into its own in the New Testament, where it is taught in the words of and modeled by the behavior of Jesus. For example, Luke’s Parable of the Places of Honor concludes with “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (14:7–11).

In one of the most touching episodes in John’s Gospel (13:12–16), Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, saying that he is illustrating how they should regard one another. In the episode of the punishment of the adulteress, the onlookers admit that they are disqualified to throw the first stone, since they too have sinned (John 8:1–11). We are warned not to judge lest we be judged (Matthew 7:11). In Matthew 6:1–6, we are asked to give alms anonymously and to pray in private, not advertise our generosity and piousness. Otherwise, we shall have “no reward of your Father which is in heaven."

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