The Biblical Case for Humble Bragging
What if I told you that some of the most humble, selfless characters in the Bible are also some of the most notable attention grabbers? You might feel a little skeptical or surprised. After all, "humble" and "attention-grabbing" are not traits that normally go hand-in-hand.
But it's absolutely true. Some of the greatest, most humble leaders of the people of God have uttered one of the boldest, most attention-grabbing phrases thinkable. And they did so right to God's face!
So who are these humble bragging characters, you're wondering?
Well, the characters are all part of the "All Star" cast in the biblical story. Abraham and Jacob (you can read about them in Genesis), Moses (beginning in Exodus), Samuel (from 1 Samuel) and Isaiah (whose story is told in *drumroll* Isaiah!). Each of these men were pivotal in the progression of the story from Adam to Jesus and beyond. Each of them are found to be prime examples of faithful obedience and humility before God (despite their flaws).
And the phrase they all utter in unison? In response to God calling each by name into service for His glory, they all say, “Here I am!”
Okay, so in English that might not sound quite so attention grabbing... But consider this - in the original Hebrew in which the Old Testament is written, the word used each time (Heb: "hineni") is what we call an interjection. Grammatically, an interjection is a word or phrase that is meant to break the flow of the story to abruptly and dramatically call attention to an object, character, or circumstance. It’s meant to be a little surprising. And in a language without punctuation (such as Hebrew) "hineni" also brings along with it the force of an exclamation point. Its whole purpose is to grab attention! In a sense when someone says this, it’s like saying – “Behold… me!”
So it’s a little shocking at first that these faithful characters otherwise full of humility could utter the phrase “Behold… me!” That is until you start to think about who these characters are. They’re not exactly the type of characters that ordinarily draw attention to themselves – such as Kings, politicians, billionaires, etc.
Abraham’s story started out when he was an old man with no children and therefore no hope for his future. Jacob had a long, storied past of deception and difficulty that he’d sooner forget then preserve. Moses had killed a man and was in hiding. Samuel was “too” young to be good for anything. And Isaiah – well I’ll let him speak for himself…
It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Isaiah 6:5
The point is that these characters all grabbed attention in spite of the fact that they would have much rather not. And in this way their attention grabbing does not contradict their humble nature, but deepens it! When God called them, they all showed up, prepared to offer what little or lot they had. They’re not saying “Behold… me!” as much as they’re saying “Behold… me! (who by the way has little to offer and everything to lose).”
What about you? Like these heroes of old, God is calling you into service for His glory. Have you heard that call lately? It might be in a big way, or a small, patient way. Are you prepared to lay down your messy life for His glorious work?
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Scripture teaches that God’s power “is made perfect in weakness." When we get to the end of ourselves, God takes us beyond what we could ask or imagine. Therefore, like Paul, we boast in our weakness so that the power of Christ will be alive and real in and through us! But to get to that place, you have to first get to the end of yourself, and acknowledge your weakness. After all, you can't boast in something you pretend doesn't exist. Admit to yourself that you are not able and seek help from the Lord. You cannot bear the yoke of the world on your own. No amount of hard work will bring you lasting joy. Seek the Kingdom of God first, and his righteousness. Knock and the door will be opened for you (Matthew 7:7).
Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Samuel – they were all humble enough to know they had little to offer to God, but what little they could offer (their service and obedience) was more than enough for Him. Now we find ourselves in this moment and season as individuals and as a church as a direct result of their faithfulness. Imagine the impact you might have on your family, your children, your community, this nation, and the world! Will you lay bare your life for His service? Will you humble brag with all the saints before us – “Here I am!”