Book Review: Humility: True Greatness, by C. J. Mahaney

HumilityC. J. Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness is a quick read and quick reminder that if we’re keeping a proper perspective on God and ourselves, then we really have no choice but to be humble. It’s not really something we do; it’s something we are (or should be).

Mahaney begins with his own definition: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (22). He writes that God hates pride and that the real first sin was Satan’s pride in thinking he could be greater than God (30). “Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him” (31). This is the heart of the book: Jesus paid our ransom and leads us—he’s the only leader. When we attempt to be in control, we can no longer be truly humble.

The bulk of the book presents ways in which we can weaken pride and cultivate humility. Keeping in mind that there’s a good bit of Calvinist language here that those unfamiliar may find confusing (certain “doctrines” aren’t actually outlined for those who don’t know what Calvinists teach), the purpose remains clear. I had been keeping an outline during my reading, only to realize that Mahaney provided a nearly identical list to what I had written at the end of the book. So, with some of my comments in parentheses, here’s that outline:


  1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.

As each day begins:

  1. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.
  2. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.
  3. Practice the spiritual disciplines—prayer, study of God’s word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day’s outset, if possible. (These are not the only spiritual disciplines, but still vital.)
  4. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture. (Listening is preferable to reading while driving! Bibles are great for passengers.)
  5. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

As each day ends:

  1. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.
  2. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep. (We can’t do it on our own, we aren’t all powerful, and we need downtime, unlike our Creator; hence, we remember our place beneath Him.)
    (Not in his outline, but I think was likely meant to be here: “If possible, make your final thought each night an expression of gratefulness for the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross as your substitute for your many sins” [84].)

For special focus:

  1. Study the attributes of God. (This is great if you have a systematic reference and are familiar with what many have to say about God, but Mahaney provides enough in the text to get one started.)
  2. Study the doctrines of grace. (By this he means election, calling, justification, and perseverance, which will take some explaining and convincing [I’m not convinced by the Calvinist core of “TULIP”], but I think Mahaney explains enough to understand one’s place with God here in the text without bringing much controversy to the table.)
  3. Study the doctrine of sin.
  4. Play golf as much as possible. (Stepping away from pure study, Mahaney notes how humbling golf is for him. Pick your own humbling activity.)
  5. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.

Throughout your days and weeks:

  1. Identify evidences of grace in others.
  2. Encourage and serve others each and every day.
  3. Invite and pursue correction.
  4. Respond humbly to trials.


All in all, I think this can be quite helpful.