January 25, 2014

Proud of humility?

This week my online professor outlined how faith works together with hope and love and results in humility. He said, when we trust God and His promises, we are filled with hope (a future certainty), but also set free from our concerns for this life. Knowing God will take care of me, no matter what, gives me the freedom to love others without thinking of personal gain or what it might cost me. Also, as I rely in faith on God alone for all my needs, I draw closer to Him. In doing that, I am increasingly exposed to His light, and in that light I will see my own sinfulness more clearly. Yes, I will also experience greater grace, but the result of being close to God is humility.

This is why James says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13) Those who are humble must always depend on God for everything, and in depending on God, all good works are motivated and empowered by God. Living this way is Christlike and what it means to be a mature Christian.

The Old Testament calls for humility as well. According to Zephaniah, it is goes with faith just as describe above. He says . . .  

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Today’s devotional reading says that humility is one of those virtues that if you think you have it, you don’t. Humility is elusive. It is like my shadow; when I step into it, it moves.

There is also a danger of exalting humility and turning it into an idol. Rather than fall into that trap, God instructs me to recognizing pride and deal with it so humility can flourish. I don’t have to read many more verses to know areas in my life where I can be proud.

Jesus illustrated one way to deny pride and cultivate a lowly attitude. He said to take the least prominent place when I’m invited to a dinner party. If I pick the best spot . . .

 . . . he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:9–11)

I can relate. I’ve been to meals where I was seated with the guest speaker and enjoyed the experience so much that I need to be careful not to manipulate my way into places where I am not invited, vainly thinking I’m important and should be treated that way.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about their pride. He’d chastened them for their selfish ways and told them he was going to visit them. Apparently some of them thought they were not in the group that needed his visit, so simply decided he would not come to them. To that, Paul wrote . . .

Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:18–21)

Paul’s contrast of a rod and a spirit of gentleness illustrates the way pride can make me feel. It might lift me up in arrogance but that attitude easily makes others feel like smacking me with a big stick. I’d be happier if my pride was dealt with in gentleness — much like Jesus when He came to save us from our sin . . .

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I do not want to idolize humility, just simple have it, like Jesus has it. I also don’t want to hang on to pride, thinking that I am important when all I am is a forgiven sinner.

God has a wonderful way of dealing with both. He makes pride obvious and repulsive to others, and makes humility invisible and a blessing to others, then calls me to not put humility on a pedestal, but simply idolize Him.

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