Matthew 23:12 (Amplified Bible)
Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor.
Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].
Philipians 2:3-11 (NKJV)
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
By nature, we are not humble creatures. Far from it. Yet, somewhere along the path to Christlikeness, God will deal with us, and begin to ask us to humble ourselves, so that He can then do something significant with our lives. But what does it mean to humble ourselves? In the three verses above, the word for humble(d) is the Greek word tapeinoō. (Strongs 5103). This word can be defined "to make low, bring low; to level, reduce to a plain; reduce to meaner (poor) circumstances; to assign a lower rank or place to; to abase; to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded; to lower, depress; to bring down one's pride; to have a modest opinion of one's self; to behave in an unassuming manner; and devoid of all haughtiness."
Strong stuff. Fortunately, it isn't God's desire to do this to us. What a terrifying blow that could be! It is, however, His goal that we do this to ourselves. "Humble yourselves" His Word says. And if we do, He will then lift us up, and make our lives a place of honor. Ultimately, our example to follow is Jesus. More than anyone in history, Jesus humbled Himself. He was from the beginning with God and was God (See John 1John 1:1-4 (NKJV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.). But, he lowered himself, reducing himself to poor circumstances, and assigned to himself a lower rank among men, as man. He gave up His position with and as God to take on the flesh of man, and even fully submitted Himself to man's sin. This is not to say that Jesus sinned, but he did take our sin upon himself (see Luke 22:41-42Luke 22:41-42 (NKJV)
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." ). He who knew no sin became sin for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:212 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ). And when He did that, the reality is, God poured out His wrath for sin - upon Jesus - so that it would not have to be poured out on us.
Are we willing to follow in that example? Could we give up our position the way Jesus did? Jesus took our sin, and suffered our punishment trusting that ultimately He would be raised by God and given a Name above all names and a position above all. But His purpose in taking our sin wasn't the ultimate position of glory. He had glory before he took the form of a man. His purpose in humbling himself was for the salvation of mankind. And so too should our purpose be when we work to humble ourselves.
And that's the key. The purpose behind striving for Godly humility. If we've fallen deceived to someone who has told us to humble ourselves because we'll be given a place of honor by God, then our attempts at humility will be futile. The place of honor is not to be our goal - it is never the "because" for our humility. The place of honor is not the purpose. Just as it was with Jesus, the place of honor is the reward for being willing to humble ourselves in the giving of our lives for the salvation of mankind. We must see ourselves as lower than all of mankind - so that all of mankind is in our eyes more worthy than ourselves. We must see ourselves as ones who will die to save them - because they are the important ones.
Who is important to you? Is it the guy down the street? The unwashed man on the corner? The coworker who slanders your name every chance he gets? Until our humility tells us that these people are more important than us, and that their needs are more important than ours, and that their lives are worth the cost of our own, then we have not fully traveled the road towards humility.