How does humility play into headship (and leadership)?

The book has been slightly delayed with some issues setting up on Amazon. In the meantime…


I’ve been asked a few times recently about how humility plays into headship since seemingly to some Christians they are contradictory. This can be easily solved by looking at various Scriptures.

First, Humility is not submission. Humility is the correct understanding of one’s own importance. Our importance should always be taken into consideration of the gospel: we are sinners in need of a Savior. This reorients our attitude correctly that our focus is God’s mission and not our own importance. Therefore, we must use any authority we have in the context of God’s mission.

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Notice that Jesus does not cancel authority, denigrate it, or call it evil. Rather, He admonishes us to use it correctly. The purpose of “humble” authority is to:

  • Love – Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us
  • Lead by Example – John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
  • Serve others – John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.

Serving is pretty obvious. It’s easy to serve others by meeting their needs and taking care of them.

The of the big issues of the evangelical term “servant leadership” is that all focus is put on the serving with no leading.

How did Christ lead in the Scripture? According to His mission:

  • He sent out the 70 in Luke 10 to minister to other people
  • He had his disciples do tasks for him like pass out bread and fish while ministering to others, go get the donkey for the triumphal entry, prepare the last supper, etc.
  • Showed us an example to keep the faith by driving out the money changers from the temple
  • Lambasted hypocrites like the Pharisees
  • Corrected his disciples when they were off track “ye of little faith”
  • Rebuked Peter (as Satan no less) when He predicted his death and Peter said he shouldn’t die.

Even the Ephesians 5 passage about love is not about feelings or placating them or making someone feel loved.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Christ died, sacrificially, for the sanctification of the Church. This is the love that the passage is talking about. So husbands are to lead their wives toward sanctification. This means correcting, teaching, admonishing and possibly rebuking their wife when she is off track.

Paul goes back to Creation a lot in and this is a reminder to not follow in the steps of Adam:

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate

Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Instead of obeying God to not eat of the tree and correcting his wife in this instance, Adam obeyed his wife and disobeyed God. So husbands have the same responsibility to their wife in her sanctification as Adam failed to do.

To summarize:

Humility is not submission. Humility is re-orienting our perception of our own importance to the gospel, so our lives are kingdom focused.

Headship (and by extension also leadership/authority) has multiple components which are to love, lead by example, serve others, and things like these. Most people focus only on the ways Jesus served but not onto the ways Jesus loves and leads by example (and expects others to follow in His example).

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10 Responses to How does humility play into headship (and leadership)?

  1. Chad Zueck says:

    Great post! How would you say that this view compares to Andrew Murray’s book called Humility?

  2. @ Chad

    How would you say that this view compares to Andrew Murray’s book called Humility?

    Not familiar with it. If you can post the salient points, we could discuss it.

  3. Jonadab-the-Rechabite says:

    I like to think humility is having a right view of ourselves compared to others.

    For instance, when we compare ourselves to God, we are important, finite and evil, but when we compare ourselves not as individuals but united to Christ we are sons of the most high. When we compare ourselves to our children, we rightly admit that we are bigger, more experienced and more responsible. When we compare ourselves to our boss, we view his higher authority in the organization, and when we view ourselves to our wife we see the burden of headship, the duty to sanctify her and worth to Christ as a joint heir. None of these relationships are about equality, but a proper order, (order is described by the word cosmos in Greek, disorder is translated “world”. )

    In terms of how Christ lovingly leads I refer you to Rev 3:19: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”. It is to His bride, it what He said, it’s printed in red.

  4. Jonadab-the-Rechabite says:

    Auto correct Typo- impotent not important!

  5. That Brotha Pedat says:

    I like your definition of humility…it’s the “correct understanding of one’s own importance”, and I’d further add that it’s “the willingness to seek and acknowledge the TRUTH about how we HAVE and DO comport ourselves in this life”.

  6. That Brotha Pedat says:

    I believe that (self) respect and humility are essential elements in the life of a man who seeks to walk in competent godly masculinity.

  7. Michael says:

    Great post on this topic! I would add one more key verse: instructions for future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17 (basically a description of how to rule wisely)
    18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

  8. @ Michael

    Good find.

  9. Pingback: Apprehending True Humility | Σ Frame

  10. Pingback: Coram Mundo vs. Coram Deo | Σ Frame

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