“3 I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4, NKJV, Pg. 1497).
Humility is a virtue that as a parent or a teacher we want all our children to have and to express to others around them. What we fail to see is that this characteristic of one’s personality is learned by example; our children watch very closely what we do, how we do it, and what we say to others. They see how we treat our family, friends, strangers, and enemies; no matter the intent this trait is what they emulate, and what they will become strictly by observation. Humility as a learned attribute to one’s character can be expressed in many ways because it means something different to each and every one of use. To Jesus, it is about becoming like an innocent child, changing how we treat others, and accepting openly the hand of our brothers. To be humble is to place the needs of others first, to become modest; never taking credit for what you did not do, the automatic giving of respect, it is thinking about yourself less, and becoming active in charity. A person who is truly humble can look at themselves in self-reflection and see the error of their ways. To stay humble is a constant battle because we are not humble by nature; rather we are born in rebellion against God.
The most perfect example of humility is found in our savior, Jesus Christ, as he was arrested and tried by men who wanted him dead. They struck him, spit upon him, beat him, and judged him, only to crucify him, and our Savior took it and died for our sins. Jesus did not strike back, put a plague upon them, he did not cruse at them, nor did he seek revenge, rather he remained brave in the face of danger. He remained reverent in all his actions and teachings, accepting completely the sacrifice that was involved. He was like a child before his accusers as he had nothing to confess. Jesus showed courage in the face of his looming torcher and death while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, for his task was the most difficult ever assigned by God. Jesus confronted his fear and uncertainty replacing it with love for all mankind.
“12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23: 12, NKJV, Pg. 1506).
Jesus could have boldly stated making it clear to everyone his true mission and brashly misusing his power and authority, taking up the sword and caused a revolution as some men had wanted him to do. Jesus could have laid claim to the thrown of David, and been king of men, but if he had done all these things he would not be fulfilling his true purpose, as the true son of God. In retrospect his death would not have save humanity. His actions would not have been Gods will, and would have been viewed as being just as lofty as those he called hypocrites. Jesus would be anything but humble, and again his death would have been meaningless. He could have declared his power and stopped the pain, suffering, and brought himself down from the cross had he wanted to. But again this would be showing a lack of humility, making his death and sacrifice again meaningless. In fact, Jesus could have caved into his more mortal desires and married and had children, never fully realizing his full potential, ignoring God’s mission for his life. He could have become the exact opposite of humility, that being selfish and prideful, tiptoeing through life never sacrificing anything, with one glaring exception, the saving of the human soul and ultimately the redemption of man. The very fact that Jesus did not give in, ignored the obvious outcome of his actions by provoking the Pharisees, and ignoring their orders to work miracles so that they would believe in him, Jesus was exalted.
The truth is any one of us who choses humility in the eyes of God choses to be exalted.
I remember once as a young boy my grandmother took me shopping. She was going to buy me some new school clothes; I remember her making me try each and everything on until I couldn’t take it anymore. After most of the afternoon had gone I was tired of trying on shirts and pants and shoes… I looked at her and said exasperated, “Are we done? Just buy the damn shirt and let’s go!” I will never forget the look upon my grandmother’s face. It was if I had not appreciated what she was doing for me, and truth be told I didn’t, in a childish way I expected it as if it was her duty to me. My grandmother looked at me through her glasses and said very calmly, “What I do for you now you may not appreciate, but when you are on your own and have nothing you will remember this day my boy. Then you will appreciate me.” I had been anything but humble, for her words cut me to the bone. I did not want my grandmother to feel I did not appreciate her. But yet my words made her feel that way. I knew if I had tried to say sorry she would not accept it, and I would only be saying it because I felt bad. So I was caught within a dilemma, “What should I say? What could I say?” The ride home was long and quiet; I knew she was going to tell my mother when I wasn’t around to hear. I knew my mother would be disappointed in me too. I cannot tell you how bad I felt, I just wanted to find a hole and hide in it forever. But it was from this, I learned to become humble in all aspects of my life. I owe that to my grandmother. To this day I say thank you when someone does something for me, I make sure they know how I appreciate them for all they have done. Though I am not perfect in this, I try very hard to remain as humble as possible.
“6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1Peter 5:6-7, NJKV, Pp.1935).
Becoming humble is a struggle; it requires dedication, long suffering, and practice. Signs of humility appear in your everyday speech from the most common words such as, “Please” and “Thank you”, to words like, “It would be my pleasure” or “It would be an honored.” It is in the actions you make, from opening a door for an elderly person, to thoughtfully offering your services to a person who needs your help rather than passing them by. It is in the thoughtfulness of others as you give your time to a charity, or in giving a family member that special, reassuring pat on the back when you know they are down. My personal favorite is always acknowledging your spouse, for all the things they do daily to make your life better than it would have been if you were on your own. The giving of roses or a card for no reason out of the blue is a great place to start. Humility is not submission, but the act of thinking of others more than you do yourself. It is a tender act of love, compassion, and or mercy that shows what is truly in your heart. Humility is the shedding of a complicated, self-serving mindset into that of a child-like acceptance of others and of their needs, all without asking for a reward or having an expectation of something in return. Humility is selfless and needs no reward, for the act itself is its own reward. Finally Humility is that moral compass that keeps us honest, and on the right path. For those who master the virtue of humility, the doors to the kingdom of heaven are opened, and God Himself is standing there waiting to receive you.
Challenge question: Wouldn’t it be easier when we become hotheaded, and self-righteous, to remember that humility is what God expects in all situations? In those instances doesn’t it just make more since to quiet your tongue until you have come back into a calmer mindset?
If you have been moved by this blog I humbly invite you to leave a message telling me your thoughts and how this reflection has touched you. May peace and love be with you all the days of your life. May God keep you and bless you.