The Danger of False Humility

In Colossians Chapter 2, St. Paul warns us of those who demonstrate false humility. False humility is the subversive tactic of wolves as they display mere clothing of a shepherd or other type of honest and caring person. It’s not always easy to identify and can turn into an extremely arrogant accusation if not carefully sought. Judas, when he kissed Jesus, is an obvious example of false humility. But what about those that put the “kiss of Judas” into words and actions according to customs and tactics of today’s society? In other words, we are not looking for someone to literally kiss another person but we are looking for completely different things according to the psychology of our culture.  

The snare of false humility is its very outward proclamation of humility. I once visited a conference of a newly formed denomination that claimed to have Protestant Reformation essentials, where the leader of this organization continually (and I was told that this was a regular speech of his) claimed that he was an “arrogant man.”  My buddy and I saw this as a demonstration of false humility! Why? Well, this particular man proclaimed a number of accusations against the historic Church that he felt were just reasons for beginning his new venture, yet these accusations were autonomously founded. This leader wanted no accountability from any of the Reformed or other historic churches. He claimed that they had essentials in the faith so wrong, that it was necessary for him to begin his own venture completely apart from any of the historic positions. He began a new form of Church polity (with him as the head, of course) and a new form of doctrine that was inclusive to the more modern elements of the Church.

Not only was this man autonomous in his ecclesiology, he was autonomous in his family ethics. He continually preached a high standard of ethics for the family, yet he was not adhering to this same standard; flying from conference to conference to speak and counsel, while his teenage son spiraled into a form of depression. It seemed that in order to cover his guilt, he would come out and preach directly against it. In the subject of homiletics, we call this “preaching your own convictions.” This can happen to any pastor; he, being convicted of a certain sin, rather than repenting of the sin by changing his ways, vents his frustration over the pulpit. In judicial terms this can be called abuse of power under the color of authority. The leader, knowing that his flock will interpret his ethical speech as a command to them, turns his own convictions inside-out by using the pulpit as a scapegoat.

False humility is often used as a sort of partial repentance. It gives us the ability to feel like we have given up illegal weapons but within our basement is an entire arsenal of the latest terrorist paraphernalia with actual names of future victims written on them. When this individual confesses – especially publicly –  to a particular sliver of his problem or just denounces that particular type of ungodly behaviour, it becomes difficult to prosecute them when they become a complete and obvious danger to the Church or society. To obtain a warrant – to use the judicial language again –  can be almost impossible because, after all, we all know that this man is not like that. He publicly denounces this kind of behaviour constantly.

This is why St. Paul warns us about leaders who carry this tactic of false humility. It is deception and hypocrisy, and is clearly the ploy of the devil. May we all be aware of this sin in our own lives and may we be watchful of it in our leaders. And with that last sentence said, may we not be overzealous and arrogant when watching for false humility in leadership, lest we falsely accuse and become divisive ourselves.