Did You Meme That?

It That Biblical Humility?

by Mary E. Stephens
Feb. 2024

"Humility isn't a low estimation of oneself, but a high estimation of the greatness of God."
Wendy Speake

This quote comes from a Hollywood actress named Wendy Speake, who is also an alleged Bible teacher for women. I know little about her, but having looked at a few things on her site, I see the typical lack of the Bible she is supposed to love and teach. I also see another translation of the Bible that is not faithful to the truth. While it is true that sometimes good people will say or teach things that are off, in this case I'm not surprised at this quote after seeing the fluff and stuff on her web page. We will discuss this quote here apart from its original context because that is how I found it on social media. It was basically "clipped out" and started on its journey as a stand alone thought. I don't remember exactly where I found it being shared, but someone believes it enough to keep spreading it, so let's examine it - because words mean things.

According to this definition of humility, as it stands, we don't have to humble ourselves; we only have to think highly of the greatness of God.

Do you see what she has done there? She has left pride, ego, and self-conceit intact while claiming that we need only think very highly of God's greatness in order to have humility. We are apparently given permission to have whatever high and pompous opinion of ourselves we want, as long as we have a high estimation of the greatness of God. I am not at all sure that this is what she wanted to convey, but the original graphic with this quote is on her own website. What she wrote there seemed to point in another direction, but there is an uncertain sound.

Based on this stand alone quote, when a man or a woman gets up and boasts that there is no one greater than they are - except God, of course, (cough, cough), as long as they allegedly have a high estimation of God's greatness, they can still apparently have "humility." If a person declares himself (or herself) to be necessary for our spiritual growth, our relationship with God, or our eternal salvation; as long as they have a high estimation of the greatness of God, they're good. "Humility" can apparently still go on their resume.

But, what does "humility" really mean?

Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.

According to Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, humility is:

  1. Freedom from pride; modesty; not arrogance.

  2. Act of submission.

Usually people who are free from pride do have a modest estimate of themselves. They may have self-respect and know their value in terms of certain abilities, but they are not arrogant about it. That's what humility looks like. Furthermore, people who have true humility act upon it and submit to those higher than themselves when the occasion  arises. (More later on that.)

Webster's 1828 Dictionary adds more to the over all thought, stating:

  1. In ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth. In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.

Please notice the word games that Ms. Speake has used. Humility is a "modest estimate of one's own worth." She then moves the line here by saying that it isn't a low estimation of oneself. Well, essentially, to quibble, she could be said to be correct on that point, but... If you'll allow me to muddy the waters  a little further, that isn't what humility isn't. Humility IS a modest estimate of yourself. And compared to your estimation of who God is, it jolly well should be a low estimate, because, friend, "there ain't no comparison between 'em." In other words, we are not worthy to stand in the presence of the holy, just, and altogether sinless God Almighty.

The self-esteem junkies would tell us that having a low estimation of ourselves is very unhealthy and bad for us. The world and the flesh hate to be told to abase themselves, to recognize their own unworthiness, and to submit to God - even to the point of willing acts of submission to His will. They may be fine with God being great, but don't ask them to lower their estimation of themselves.

But, there we stumble over another oddity of this quote.

She says:

 not "a low estimation of oneself," 


"a high estimation of the greatness of God."

She does NOT say "a high estimation of God." Those two things are not the same. She didn't compare like things.

Let me try to explain a little more clearly.

In order to make an accurate comparison, she should have said "Humility isn't a low estimation of oneself, but a high estimation of God." OR she should have said, "Humility isn't a low estimation of your own greatness, but a high estimation of the greatness of God." Either of those would have been equal comparisons. What she said is not equal. She is comparing your estimations, which are your "rough calculation of the value" of a thing [Source]. So, your rough calculation of the value of yourself against your rough calculation of the greatness of God, not your value of God Himself, just His greatness. (While this might not be what she intended, it is the quote that is out there, and we're dealing with that.)

"Oh, I think very highly of God's greatness!"

But, do you think very highly of God Himself?

James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The devils believe in God's greatness too. They know He is great in power, in majesty, and in wisdom, and that He holds their destiny in His hand. With His words He can control them or send them to their doom.

A curious incident from the life of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 8:28-32: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

These devils had a high estimation of the power of God. They knew full well that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that He had the power to torment them. He could send them where He willed, and they would be forced to obey. But, they did not have humility.

In Job chapter 41 God is describing leviathan to Job. As the chapter progresses, we can begin to see that while this may well have been a real creature that lived on earth at one time (perhaps still does in the great deeps of the sea), he had some peculiar traits that make him very much a type of Satan or the great dragon in the book Revelation. The last verse of  the chapter says, He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride. Job 41:34 We know that pride was the great sin of Satan, or Lucifer as he once was. When he fell from heaven, he had purposed in his heart to "be like the Most High." Isaiah 14:14 There is nothing more prideful than that.

Oh, yes. Satan has a very high estimation of the greatness of God. He coveted it and desired it for himself, and that was his destruction. It did not prove that he had humility, because he did not.

So, when Ms. Speake says that humility is a high estimation of the greatness of God, which is in essence what she's saying, she is misrepresenting what the Bible actually says. That is not what humility is in the Book.

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Let's revisit the "humbleness of mind" part from Webster's dictionary.

The words "humility" and "humble" come to us from Latin through Old French. They are related words, etymologically speaking (if you'll permit a $5 word). Well, humble isn't hard to identify. It most certainly is a low estimate of oneself.

We even find these two words used together in 1 Peter 5:5-6, Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

God resists the proud. He gives grace to the humble - those who are subject to one another in Christ (an act of submission to God's will), and who are clothed with humility. If you want to be exalted by God, you have to get down under His mighty hand - humble yourselves. Humility. Lowering yourself.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

We are to have lowliness of mind. We are to esteem our fellow believers better than ourselves.

Does that sound like having a low estimation of oneself to you? It does to me.

In fact, guess what the Oxford Languages dictionary says about humility:

 a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness.

That sounds strangely familiar. Seems like we just read that, no?

And just because we can, here's the Cambridge Dictionary:

the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride:

"No special importance that makes you better than others." Let that one sink in a bit.

To return to Webster's 1828:

In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.

We just keep running into "low" and "lowliness." It's hard to escape a glaring truth.

To go a bit further, Webster made a clear distinction. In ethics - which is a human construction of behavior - humility is a "modest estimation of one's own worth." BUT, in theology - here we might say it is the construction of behavior dictated by the Christian faith - it "consists in

lowliness of mind;

a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God,


penitence for sin,

and submission to the divine will."

Ms. Speake is plainly speaking in this latter category. She it talking about God, and our estimation of His greatness. Not human ethics. So, in fact, yes we should have a low estimation of ourselves in humility before God, because that is what He has told us to do. To humble ourselves. Not because we have a high estimation of His greatness, but because we have a very high estimation of God Himself.

And so we come back to the difference between valuing the greatness of God and valuing God Himself.

What is your estimation of God? What is your rough calculation of the value of God?

That sounds like a silly question, doesn't it? How can we estimate God or set a value on Him? It's far beyond our tiny ability to comprehend. Jesus Christ spent 33 years on this earth and yet John wrote, And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John 21:25 And he was talking about just a tiny fraction of the overall existence of God. No, our little human estimations can never, never put a correct value on God, OR His greatness.

But, let's go a step further.

What is your estimation of yourself compared to your estimation of God? What is your rough calculation of your own value in comparison to your rough calculation of the value of God?

Now that's laughable.

Who are we? David wrote, under inspiration, When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Psalm 8:3-4

None of us has any special importance compared to anyone else in the face of who God is. In other words, God is so much more than all of us, through all of time, that we all sink to the same level in comparison. And, biblical humility requires that we live and think that way, because that is its very essence - not self-loathing, but self-lowering. The lowliness of mind we read about, and esteeming others better than ourselves, is because we are humbling ourselves under God's hand. It is self-abasement. It is recognizing our own unworthiness of relationship with such an one as the Lord God Almighty. It is to recognize our sin and its insult to this Holy God, and thus to repent and humble ourselves under His mighty hand. It is to actively submit ourselves to His perfect and righteous will - and to act upon it.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Galatians 1:3-5 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Until we begin to understand how low we are, how unworthy of His mercy and grace, of His miraculous lovingkindness and salvation offered to us in the person of His Son, we cannot have a correct estimation of ourselves, nor can we have a correct estimation of who He is. We cannot be clothed with humility and obey His commands to humble ourselves and walk in lowliness of mind until we start to grasp, not just His greatness, but who He is. God is great, truly; but He is also a Person, an entity in and of Himself. He has character and personality, of which greatness is one part. He has an essence. He has a body, soul, and spirit. While His greatness is a wonderful thing, it should not be the only thing that brings us to humble obedience and submission to His will. Our rough calculation of the value of His greatness is certainly not the source of true humility. It is just one small part of what we should be learning about Him.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Did you notice what He didn't say? Yes, that's right. He didn't say that understanding His greatness was the path to understanding and knowing Him. He chose lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness.

Can you think of a time and place where God pulls those three things together in the ultimate display of what is truly worth knowing and understanding?

Yes, that's right. At the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son.

Galatians 6:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.Why?

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Here's the thing, we cannot know and understand God unless we come to the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

And what is the example of Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, who carries in His person all the fulness of the Godhead? What did He do?

Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

That is what the perfect example of humility looks like. Though he was God in the flesh, He made Himself of no reputation. He took the form of a servant. He - who was truly great and lacked nothing of complete Godness (if you will) - became human like we all do - in the womb of a woman, and in a body destined to die. Jesus humbled Himself to become obedient to death, and not just any death, but death on a cross - one of the worst kinds.

While He did not loathe Himself, He certainly lowered Himself.

Do you want to know how to have true humility? Let the mind of Christ be in you. Don't make estimations or rough calculations about values. Follow Jesus. Learn to think like Him. He will show you how.


background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source