Today’s post is an excerpt from Dave Adamson’s book 52 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. He is an Australian pastor, photographer, author, content creator, and YouTuber living in Atlanta. After spending a decade as a TV reporter in Australia, Dave now serves as the Social Media Pastor at North Point Ministries. He is married to Meg and has three daughters, Chelsea, Ella, and Jordyn. Dave was in Regi Campbell’s mentoring group in 2018.
Have you ever been humbled by nature? Have you ever walked through a field of tulips or watched a sunset and been reminded how incredibly awesome God is and how small you are by comparison? It’s humbling. The Hebrew word anavah is what we translate as “humility,” but the literal definition of anavah is to occupy your God-given space in the world—to not overestimate yourself or your abilities, but to not underestimate them either.
There’s a story in the Bible about a group of people who tried to build a tower to heaven in order to “make a name of ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted fame—to be known, respected, and honored for their achievements. Their motivation was the opposite of anavah, because they wanted to take up more than their God-given space in the world. They overestimated themselves and their abilities.
We live in a world of likes, retweets, followers, fans, and favorites, and it’s easy to determine our self-worth based on how many—or how few—of these we have. When we underestimate our worth or ourselves, that is not anavah. It is not humility.
Growing up, I was taught that humility was thinking less of yourself by taking up the smallest possible space. But anavah is about being aware of and comfortable with your place. When we do this, we don’t take up so much space that it squeezes others out, and we don’t take up so little space that our responsibilities fall to others. What if, just for today, you resolved to serve others by simply taking up the space God has given you to occupy? Nothing more, nothing less.
Scripture: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)