Are you humble? Or just insecure?

“Then [God] brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri's clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the LORD, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ And the LORD said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’” (1 Samuel 10:21-22)

It was not an impressive beginning for Saul. Despite being chosen by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the first king of Israel, when it came time for the big reveal, Saul was nowhere to be found. The spotlight fell on the place where he should have been, but Saul was cowering behind the luggage.

Maybe Saul was just being humble, you might say. Isn’t humility a good thing? But as we read about the rest of Saul’s life, it becomes clear that there is a difference between humility and insecurity. David shows himself to be humble; Saul, on the other hand, just shows himself to be insecure. I believe we would be wise to learn the difference.

I think the best way to differentiate insecurity from humility is this: insecurity is thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking of yourself less. Let me expand on that: insecurity is thinking less of yourself. It is receiving the call of God to be king, and hiding yourself among the baggage because you don’t think you are up to the task. Humility, on the other hand, is thinking of yourself less. It is receiving the call of God to be king and walking in obedience to Him because your eyes are not on yourself but on the one who equips the called, the one whose strength is made perfect in weakness.

Saul’s life is dominated by insecurity. In his first misstep, as his troops are growing in fear and losing confidence in his leadership, Saul offers an offering to God instead of waiting for Samuel. Later on, his lack of trust in God’s provision causes him to disregard God’s command to totally destroy the animals of the Amalekites. Saul does not have the necessary faith in God to fight Goliath, letting the shepherd David be the one to stand for the Lord. Most notably, after David gains military victories and the hearts of the people turn to him, Saul grows insanely jealous and tries repeatedly to take David’s life. Throughout his life, it is clear that Saul’s inability to handle his insecurity keeps him from trusting in and obeying God, and it costs him dearly.

David, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast to Saul. Despite acknowledging his poverty and societal insignificance (1 Samuel 18:23), David’s eyes are on God, and so he is willing to walk in faith again and again into situations where death is a real possibility. His humility does not cause him to shrink back from the opportunities in front of him, but instead gives him great courage as he trusts in God’s power to work through him.

There is a big difference between humility and insecurity. It is right to recognize our weakness, our sinfulness, and our inability to do anything of spiritual significance in our own strength. But it is sinful disobedience to allow that perspective to lead us into a self-centered insecurity that rejects the call and power of God that is made perfect in our weakness. A godly humility does not end in self-centered insecurity, but instead results in a blessed self-forgetfulness that faithfully places our lives in His capable hands.

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