Overcoming the Past – Lesson 14: Humility

Key Scriptures: Genesis 37-47, Proverbs 22:4, Proverbs 11:2, Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 5:5-6, James 4:6-10, Ephesians 4:1-3, Micah 6:8, Proverbs 18:12, Mark 9:35, Luke 14:11, Philippians 2:3-11, Romans 12:16, Psalms 25:9, Matthew 5:3, Proverbs 27:2, Numbers 12:3, 1 Peter 3:3-4, Psalms 18:27, Daniel 4, Proverbs 8:13, Genesis 41:16, 2 Corinthians 11:30, Proverbs 16:5

Introductory Activity: Show clips from Pride and Prejudice, Princess Bride, Jerry McGuire or any other movie with which your students may be familiar and is an example of one or more characters’ pride. Ask students to think of ways characters in movies show they are prideful. Create a master list students can see that you can refer to later. 

Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Review with students the major events in the life of Joseph found in Genesis 37-47. Read Genesis 41:6. What things happened in the life of Joseph that could have made him proud? Which events could have humbled him? Are there any indications Joseph may have struggled with pride at any point in his life? When is it clear he was humble?

God has a lot of things He wants us to do and a lot of things He wants us to avoid. Most of them are mentioned at least a couple of times in the Bible. A couple of them, however, must really bother God, because they are mentioned over and over and over again in scriptures and are themes in numerous Bible stories. One of those is pride. Read Proverbs 16:5. According to this verse, how does God feel about pride? That’s strong language. The God who created us and loves us beyond measure and is patient with us and allows us to repent. The God who sent his son to die on the cross for our sins, DETESTS all who are proud of heart! Why do you think pride is so detestable to God?

Pride is an emotion, a state of heart that we can easily convince ourselves we don’t have. Yet, it is so easy to become prideful. It’s probably one of the reasons God reminds us so many times how He feels about pride. Pride is sneaky. We may think we just don’t like one of God’s commands and it’s outdated, which is why we disobey it. Believe it or not though, that decision comes from a position of pride. We are so proud of our intelligence, common sense, wisdom or whatever, that we have decided we are smarter than God!

Our pride can also keep us from repenting when we sin, apologizing to those we hurt….even helping, serving and teaching others about God. There’s even an insidious type of pride that is pride about the mistakes we make, the sins we commit and our lack of willingness to be more godly. It usually sounds something like, “That’s just the way I am!” And of course, we are all familiar with the “humble brag”….”I was so disappointed that only five people I studied the Bible with this year became Christians!”

Before we start looking at individual scriptures and what they can teach us about humility, let’s look at one of the most interesting stories in the Bible. Read Daniel 4. Why was God so angry with Nebuchadnezzar? What did he do to humble him? How long did it take Nebuchadnezzar to learn his lesson? How do we know he humbled himself – at least for the moment?

Sometimes God allows natural consequences to happen to remind prideful people to humble themselves and sometimes He may give those consequences himself. If you’re prideful, you may not be forced to eat grass for a few years, but read these verses and find out what may happen.

  • Proverbs 22:4
  • Proverbs 11:2
  • James 4:6-10
  • Proverbs 18:12
  • Mark 9:35 and Luke 14:11
  • Psalm 18:27
  • Proverbs 8:13

Notice God not only makes it clear how He feels about pride and the earthly consequences that can occur from pride, but He also indicates there may be earthly and most definitely eternal rewards for humility. In fact, God makes a promise in Psalms 25:9 about the special way He will bless the humble. What is it? Jesus reinforced the need for humility in Matthew 5:3. What does he promise to the “poor in spirit” or humble in this verse?

So what does it actually look like when we are humble? Let’s look at a couple of examples. Read Numbers 12:3. What does this tell us about the humility of Moses? Thinking back on his life from that perspective, what are some signs he was humble? Can you think of two times when his pride caused him problems? (When he killed the Egyptian and the second water from the rock incident.) What earthly consequences did Moses receive for those two prideful moments? Why do you think someone who was known as the most humble person on earth at the time still had moments of pride? What lesson can we learn from Moses that applies to our own lives?

Of course the life of Jesus is our perfect example of living a humble life. What are some things he said or did that show us Jesus was humble? Read the following verses and decide what they teach us about how humility might look in our lives if we are humble. (You may want to start a list of their responses that can be added to during the skills activity.)

  • Colossians 3:12
  • 1 Peter 5:5-6
  • Ephesians 4:1-3
  • Micah 6:8
  • Philippians 2:3-11
  • Romans 12:16
  • Proverbs 27:2
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11:30

Being humble is a lifelong battle. As the saying goes, “The minute you think you are humble, you are no longer humble!” We must be intentional if we want to be the humble people God class us to be.

Skills Activity: Review the major points from the lesson. Break the class into groups of two or three people. Tell students they are going to describe the most humble person possible. They can use adjectives, describe actions and attitudes, etc. You are looking for the most complete description possible. After everyone has had time to make their list, come back together and create a master list. (You may want to later print this list and give it to students to keep.)  a,e sure the list contains specifics like:

  • Forgives easily
  • Isn’t easily offended
  • Not jealous
  • Not vain (physical appearance – students may mention selfies instead)
  • Generous
  • Has integrity – they are authentic…don’t try to be appear perfect or better than they are…willing to admit weaknesses
  • Doesn’t exaggerate
  • Has empathy
  • Not defensive
  • Puts others first
  • Listens to others
  • Encourages others
  • Curious – willing to learn from others
  • Says thanks a lot
  • Courteous
  • Doesn’t boast
  • Doesn’t put down others
  • Rejoices with others
  • Serves others
  • Obeys God’s commands even when he or she doesn’t like them

Encourage students to pick one or two areas from the list where they struggle. What are some practical things they can do to improve in those areas? Depending upon your students, you can extend learning by:

  • Having them practice being humble in real world scenarios
  • Analyze common incidents and change what the various people said or did to make them more humble
  • Having them work together to create picture books for younger children about humility
  • Create scripture art with verses that will remind them of the areas on which they need to focus

Application Challenge: Review the scriptures from the lesson. What is one area in which you struggle to be humble? What is one thing you can do this week to practice being more humble in that area? While you are trying to do that one thing all week, also reflect on the connections between humble words, humble actions and a humble heart. God wants all three, but how can we convince ourselves we are humble when we actually are prideful?

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