Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the other side of humility

In the post below this one you will find some thoughts on humility that I ran across while studying for some recent sermons in Matthew 20. And those quotes are very helpful in thinking about one aspect of humility. But there's something else here that we need to think about as well...

It's very possible to stop there in our understanding of Christian humility. We remember our moral unworthiness before God, our desperate need for God's grace, we remember the vast chasm between what we deserve and what we actually receive from God's hand... & there we stop.

And it's all absolutely true. We dare not let our hearts escape the awful truth about who we really are before God and the almost-too-good-to-be-true truth about who God has really made us to be in Christ.

But if I stop there, I'm not yet a truly humble person.

This is true with all the Christian virtues. For example, the greedy person will not become un-greedy by telling himself a thousand times to stop loving money. To lay the axe to the root of greed he must also begin to practice sacrificial generosity. Then he will begin to put greed to death. And we could extend this principle to every Christian vice and virtue we could name.

But it's just so with humility. True humility is not merely telling yourself not to be proud. There's got to be a "positive" aspect of humility as well. Telling ourselves we're unworthy sinners (which we are!) is just the first step.

What's the next step toward true humility? Sacrificially Serving Other People. Engaging other people as "their servant." (see the verses quoted at the bottom of this post)

Here's the deal:

For every hundred people who are sitting at home thinking bad thoughts about themselves -- and perhaps even becoming proud of their lowliness, their sinfulness, how undeserving they are, how "broken" they are in all of their shortcomings and need for God's grace -- there is one who is accepting all the inconvenience, all the trouble, all the pains, and all the thanklessness of regularly, daily, hourly doing good for other people.

One version of humility is still "self-centered." And the other is "others-centered."

If our humility doesn't express itself outwardly in service, then we're just fooling ourselves into thinking we're humble when we're really not. We're just talking a good humility, not living it.

In the Bible, Jesus never allows his disciples to think of true humility merely in terms of an inner state or a mental attitude. True humility is "others-centered."

That's why the "first" and the "greatest" in the Kingdom of God -- the Lord Jesus Christ -- is the most humble servant of all.

"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave." -- Matthew 20.26,27

"What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." - 2 Corinthians 4.5

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