This section provides Bible stories with the theme of humility, along with questions you can use as a guide for family discussions. Choose one story that is appropriate for your children. Before reading aloud, take a few minutes to review the story. If the Bible passage is too complex for your children, paraphrase the story yourself or use the summary provided under “key concepts.”
A proud king takes a tumble
Read Daniel 4.
This is a long story. You may need to shorten it, read it in parts, or have your children act it out with dolls or stuffed animals as you read.
Questions for discussion
- If you need help, who do you ask?
- Why do you think people have trouble listening to the advice of another person?
- What do you think King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was about?
- Would that dream have scared you?
- What was Daniel’s advice to King Nebuchadnezzar? (v. 27)
- Did King Nebuchadnezzar listen to Daniel’s advice? (v. 28-30)
- What did King Nebuchadnezzar say to let us know that he was proud? (v. 28-30)
- What was the result? (v. 33)
- What did King Nebuchadnezzar finally do? (v. 34-35)
- What did he tell others about his lesson? (v. 37)
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that scared and bothered him. God gave Daniel the wisdom to understand what the dream meant. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar what the dream was about. He also told the king that he should quit doing wrong and start doing right. But King Nebuchadnezzar did not listen to Daniel’s advice.
One day Nebuchadnezzar was on the roof of his palace bragging about his mighty power and the great house he had built for himself. God spoke from heaven and told Nebuchadnezzar that his bad dream was going to come true. God made Nebuchadnezzar act and live like a wild animal until Nebuchadnezzar decided to give God the respect and honour God deserved.
King Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson and acknowledged God and praised Him as the Lord of heaven and earth. After this, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was given back to him and he told others that he now praised and glorified the King of heaven, “. . . because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).
The Bible tells us that a wise son listens to the advice of his parents (Proverbs 1:8). God’s plan is that parents will teach their children about Him (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Psalm 78:4). To gain wisdom, we can ask God for it directly or read the Bible (James 1:5).
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
“We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.”
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
A humble heart and a proud heart
Read Luke 18:9-14.
Note: In Biblical times, tax collectors were known for using their position to cheat others in order to gain wealth for themselves. On the other hand, the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. Jesus was not happy with the way the Pharisees were leading, because they were more concerned with making it appear that they were doing everything right, rather than having the right attitude in their hearts (Luke 11:37-54).
Questions for discussion
- Is it easy to notice when you do something wrong?
- Is it easier to notice when someone else does something wrong?
- Is it hard or easy to say, “I’m sorry”?
- How does the Bible describe the Pharisees?
- How was the tax collector different from the Pharisee?
- What kind of attitude did the Pharisee have?
- What kind of attitude did the tax collector have?
- Who did Jesus say went away forgiven and “right with God”?
- Are there times when you are tempted to act like a Pharisee and be the judge of another person?
It is often easier to notice when others are doing wrong than it is to see our own faults. The Bible says that the Pharisees were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee in Jesus’ story was so focused on the tax collector’s sin that he forgot to ask God if he had any sin in his own life.
The tax collector had a humble and repentant heart. He was willing to admit that he was sinful and asked God to forgive him. In comparison, we see that the Pharisee had a self-righteous and proud attitude. He thought the fasting and tithing he was doing made him good enough in God’s eyes and he was unwilling to consider or admit that he was sinful. Jesus said that it was the tax collector who went home forgiven and in right relationship with God, rather than the Pharisee.
Jesus told this story to teach the people that when a person is willing to admit they have sinned and are sorry, God is pleased with their attitude. However, God is not pleased when a person is so busy pointing out another person’s sins and bragging about themselves that they don’t think about their own sinfulness. As soon as we start to judge others, we are acting self-righteous – just like the Pharisee.
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Solomon’s humility and God’s response
Read 2 Chronicles 1:1, 7-12, 6:10-21, 7:1-3, 11-15.
Questions for discussion
- Let’s pretend that you have just been made king of one of the most powerful nations on earth. You also have more royal splendour and riches than any other king. Do you think it would be easy to get just a little bit proud?
- When God asked Solomon what he wanted, what did Solomon ask God for? (2 Chronicles 1:7-10)
- What was God’s answer? (2 Chronicles 1:11-12)
- Did God come through with His promise? (2 Chronicles 1:14-17)
- Solomon did become very rich and very wise. He used some of his wealth to build a palace for himself and a temple for God. After the temple was built, what did Solomon do to dedicate the temple? (2 Chronicles 6:13)
- Have you ever knelt down to pray?
- Was Solomon’s prayer a proud prayer or a humble prayer? How can we tell? (2 Chronicles 6:14-21)
- What did Solomon refer to himself as? (2 Chronicles 6:14,19)
- What did Solomon have to be proud of?
- What are some things that you are tempted to be prideful about?
- What are some things that you are not willing to ask help for?
- What are some things that you have done that God would want you to repent of?
At the outset of this story, we hear that Solomon had been made king of one of the most powerful nations on earth. He had more splendour and riches than anyone else. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked Solomon if there was anything he wanted. Despite his greatness, Solomon was humble enough to ask for wisdom from God to govern God’s people. God was very pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom and told him that because he had asked for wisdom and not riches, honour, a long life or the death of his enemies, God would give him wisdom, and all these other things.
With some of the wealth that God gave him, Solomon built a temple to honour God. Solomon prayed to dedicate the temple to God, acknowledging God’s greatness and asking God to be merciful and forgiving.
When Solomon prayed, he knelt down in front of the entire assembly of people. (Kneeling demonstrates humility.) Praying shows that we know that we need God’s help and that we are willing to listen to God’s advice. Humility is acknowledging our own weakness and admitting that we need help from God, just like Solomon did. Pride is refusing to admit our sinfulness and wanting to do things on our own, without help from God or anyone else.
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant. For the sake of Your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
A sad story of pride
Read 1 Kings 11:1-13.
In the previous story we heard how pleased God was with Solomon. But as Solomon grew old, he began to disobey one of God’s commands. God had specifically told the Israelites that they were not to marry foreign women (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). As odd as it may sound, in Old Testament times it was considered acceptable to have more than one wife.
Questions for discussion
- What kind of women did Solomon marry?
- What did Solomon’s wives tempt him to do? (1 Kings 11:4-8)
- What did God say about all of this? And what did God do? (1 Kings 11:9-13)
- Is there anything in your life that you are tempted to honour more than you honour God?
Even though God had given Solomon so much, Solomon still wanted something God had warned him against. Solomon disobeyed God’s command that he was not to have foreign wives. The Bible tells us that Solomon allowed these foreign women to turn his heart away from following God; instead of honouring the one true God, Solomon worshipped the foreign gods instead. God had warned the Israelites that this was exactly what would happen if they married foreigners. God was angry and He told Solomon that He would take his kingdom away from him and give it to someone else.
When we think we have everything we need, it can be easy to become proud and forget that it is God who gives us everything. Like Solomon, we can begin to make our own decisions about what we think is best for us. Thinking that we know better than God does and choosing to disobey His instructions in order to please our own selfish desires, is prideful. When we disobey God's commands and let other things in our lives become more important that He is, this angers God a lot.
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you – and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . .”
1 Corinthians 1:26-30
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
Read Matthew 23:1-12.
Questions for discussion
- When you line up for an activity, do you wish you could be first in line?
- What did Jesus say about the Pharisees? (Matthew 23:5-7)
- What did the Pharisees love? (Matthew 23:5-7)
- What advice did Jesus give His disciples? What advice do you think Jesus would give to a child who always pushes to get to the front of the line?
- What advice do you think Jesus would give to a child who often talks about being the best at sports/drawing/reading etc.?
- What advice do you think Jesus would give to a child who complains about helping out with picking up someone else’s toys/dishes/clothes?
- What advice do you think Jesus would give to you?
Jesus knew that the Pharisees (the church leaders) were not interested in pleasing God, only in gaining honour for themselves. This did not please Jesus. Jesus told His disciples that, in order to please God, they needed to be humble and willing to serve others. Jesus also said, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12).
When children fight over the first place in a line up, they are trying to get the best position for themselves. If they tell others how good they are at sports, games, drawing, reading or something else, they are honouring themselves through trying to gain praise from others. God is pleased with us when we choose to honour Him or others instead of ourselves. He gives us this advice in Philippians 2:3-5: He wants us to have the same attitude as Jesus did. Jesus was humble and chose to serve others instead of Himself.
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also but to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus . . .”
Punishment for the proud
Read Ezekiel 28:1-8 and Proverbs 16:5.
Questions for discussion
- What did the ruler of Tyre think?
- Why did he become proud?
- Did the King of Tyre trust in his own wisdom or in God’s?
- What does God promise to do to the proud?
- What are the results of being proud?
- What blessings does God promise for those who are humble?
This prophecy is about the ruler of Tyre. This proud ruler thought he was a god and as wise as a god. The king of Tyre became proud because he had gained a lot of silver and gold through skilful trading. God’s response was, “Because you think you are as wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you . . .”
The Bible tells us that God detests pride and that those who are proud will be punished. On the other hand, God promises to bless a person who listens to instruction and trusts in Him. God disciplines people when they are prideful.
“You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.”
“To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
“The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:20 “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.”
1 Peter 5:5b
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
Forgiveness for the humble
Read 2 Chronicles 33:1-5, 7-17.
The reading above omits verse six as it contains references to child sacrifice and the occult, which could be frightening and beyond the comprehension of young children.
Questions for discussion
- What did Manasseh do to anger God?
- What did God do first?
- Did Manasseh listen to God?
- What did God do then?
- After Manasseh was captured, who did he go to for help?
- How did God respond when Manasseh humbled himself?
- The Bible says, “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God” (2 Chronicles 33:13). What did Manasseh do to honour God?
Manasseh became king of Judah when he was twelve years old. He did many evil things to anger God. Manasseh worshipped foreign gods and built altars in God’s temple for these other gods. God spoke to Manasseh and the people about their sin, but no one listened. In order to get their attention, God brought the King of Assyria and his army to fight against them. The Assyrians captured King Manasseh and took him away.
The Bible tells us that after he was captured, Manasseh humbled himself before God and prayed. Because Manasseh humbled himself, God helped Manasseh by rescuing him and bringing him back to Jerusalem and restoring his kingdom. To honour God, Manasseh got rid of all the foreign gods and removed their altars from the temple. He rebuilt the altar of God, sacrificed praise and thank offerings to Him, and told the people to serve the Lord, the God of Israel only. Manasseh did wrong, but when he humbled himself, God forgave him and gave him another chance as king. God will forgive us too when we humbly tell Him we are sorry for sinning.
“He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
A wise choice
Read 2 Kings 5:1-19.
Questions for discussion
- What was wrong with Naaman?
- Who advised him to go to Israel?
- Why didn’t Naaman want to wash in the Jordan? (v. 12)
- Who advised him to do as Elisha asked? (v. 13)
- What might have happened to Naaman if he chose to ignore the advice of his servants or Elisha?
- How do we know that Naaman knew God was the only God who deserved to be worshipped?
Naaman was a rich and famous man. He was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. But Naaman had a problem; he had an incurable disease called leprosy. Through the servant of his wife, Naaman heard that there was a prophet in Israel (Elisha) who could cure him. Naaman went to Israel, but when Elisha instructed him to wash in the Jordan River seven times in order to be made well, he was not pleased. Naaman pointed out that all the rivers in his homeland were cleaner.
One of Naaman’s servants encouraged him to be humble and follow the prophet’s advice. When he did wash in the Jordan seven times, as Elisha told him to do, he was healed of his leprosy. If Naaman had been too proud to listen to the advice of his servants, Naaman would not have been healed. Naaman gave God honour for healing him. He knew that God was the only god who should be worshipped, so he asked Elisha to forgive him whenever he had to go with his master to the temple of Rimmon (a false god).
“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Read Numbers 12.
Questions for discussion
- Are your brothers and sisters good at something that you would like to be good at too?
- What is it?
- Why were Aaron and Miriam jealous of Moses?
- Why was God not happy with them?
- What does the Bible say about Moses in Numbers 12:3?
- Why do you think God had chosen Moses, and not his brother or sister, to lead Israel?
- What was the result of Aaron and Miriam’s jealousy?
- How are jealousy and pride connected?
- What should you do when you are tempted to want the honour or attention someone else is getting?
Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God talked with Moses directly and gave Moses directions as to how to lead His people to the Promised Land (a new home that God had chosen for them). Even though Moses had the honour of being chosen by God as a leader, he was still very humble.
Miriam and Aaron were Moses’ sister and brother. They were jealous of Moses’ position of honour and leadership. They envied the fact that God spoke through Moses. Due to their envy, Miriam and Aaron began to say bad things about Moses. This made God mad. He disciplined Miriam by allowing her to get leprosy (a dreaded skin disease).
When we see other people receiving honour from God, we can be tempted to want the same honour for ourselves. For example, if we had a proud attitude, we might think, I’m just as good as that other person. Why isn’t God honouring me too?
If we find ourselves desiring the honour that God has chosen to give others, we can remember Proverbs 18:12 (see below). Instead of asking God to honour you in the same way the other person has been honoured, you can pray and ask God to teach you to be humble and to teach you His ways (Psalm 25:9).
“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”
“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.”
“Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”