The Ground of Humility

Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.


Let’s begin today by lifting up what is already a banner text for this series.

In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:21. The Message)

In simple humility. If only it were that simple, right? What if it is that simple? Here’s my question: What if humility were not some kind of character trait we tried to emulate? This usually leads to some false form of humility like self abnegation or deprecation or the pretense of elevating others while seeming to lower oneself. What if humility is not an activity to be practiced or even a virtue, but rather, an identity? What if simple humility has little to do with pointing out who or what we are not but rather who we most truly are? 

We are humble. 

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground 

Notice the connection between the word “humble” and “human.” Now notice how these words connect to the term humus. We are dirt. We are made from the ground on which we walk. We don’t have to be humble. We are humble. This is the beginning of the awakening life—the deep, glorious, grateful recognition of our humble humus formed humanity. We are dust. To become deeply aware of the simplicity of our identity as human beings is step one on the path to humility. 

and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,

We are dirt, but we possess the breath of God. We are formed of dirt and filled with breath. This is the possibility the farmer poet speaks of when he says, “The possibility of human life whose terms are Heaven’s and this earth’s.” My friend Pete Greig might call this, “dirty glory.” The problem is we have come to associate the word dirty with depravity which leads us not only away from simple humility but toward seeing our humanity as something to be despised and discarded rather than redeemed and reclaimed. 

I have always found it interesting and a bit confounding that religion, church, faith, and any other word associated with God are almost exclusively associated with what is referred to as one’s spiritual life. Why not one’s whole life; as in heart, mind, soul, strength, indeed one’s whole dirt-formed embodied self? 

We will dig into this tomorrow, but what I think I am trying to say is we have made the fundamental mistake of believing our world and our lives are defined and dictated by Genesis 3, original sin, depravity, and fallenness. To be sure, we are profoundly desecrated by these realities, but not defined by them. We are defined by the verities of Genesis 1 and 2 and the radiant reality of original glory. This is why salvation is everything and letting “our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life” matters more than anything else. 

It begins (and middles and ends) with simple humility. 

Final thought today—don’t you find it interesting that humility is not included in the fruit-of-the-Spirit list? Why is that? It’s because humility is not the fruit but the ground. Humility is not the end of transformational growth and fruitful life but its beginning and ongoing condition. 

Wake up sleeper. You are becoming a saint.


Farmer God, this is challenging my thinking. I am so prone to thinking of my humanness as the problem. It is my excuse. After all, I’m only human, right? But what could be more glorious than to be a human being, made in your image, fashioned by dirt and filled with your breath? Bring me into this kind of simple humility—the awe-filled recognition of who and how you have made me. It makes me want to worship you. And then I think of Jesus, the Word made flesh by dirt and breath. Come Holy Spirit and awaken me to this visionary life. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.


What are your thoughts about this concept of humility? How do you tend to think of it or define it? What, then, would be false humility?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

5 Responses

  1. Humility in my honest opinion is the virtue of being totally emptied of oneself. A vessel made clean (sanctified) by God’s Word (John 17:17), ready to be filled by the Spirit of the living God. We were created to co-rule the creation on God’s behalf, as stewards, to work in His garden and tend it. That is the eternal destiny of those brought to faith in Christ Jesus.

  2. The Bible says that
    God made the first human
    From the dust of the ground.
    When we feel ground
    Into accepting our humility
    By the grind of daily life,
    We’re on good ground
    To experience the blessings
    Of being “poor in spirit.”

  3. Just as a farmer has to wait on his crops to grow till harvest, we are told to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage…”. Psalm 27:14. This defines humility to me.
    I very recently read that “arrogance is the opposite of humility.” It seems Holy Spirit prepared me for today’s question! God is GOOD.

  4. Love the message and commentary.
    I must admit that the Message translation of James 1:21 has me a little baffled. Although the Message Bible was the first Bible I bought after my conversion into God’s family, the directness of this scripture is missing. And we know James, if anything, was direct. Though it makes for a good analogy, for me, it seems watered-downed. (No pun attended).
    James 1:21
    King James Version
    21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
    James 1:21
    New King James Version
    21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and [a]overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
    James 1:21
    New Living Translation
    21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
    I may be overreacting here, but isn’t there a more substantial truth in knowing our soul needs saving?
    I believe this; I was once a sinner who subconsciously and intentionally always sinned. Now, I am no longer labeled as a sinner but a Saint, Priesthood of all Believers, (etc) moving further into mature Sainthood. I can still choose to sin, but intentional sin is no longer a desire or option.
    Learning to become like the One.

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