I’ve been on a journey recently where God has been teaching me (painfully at times) the “ins and outs” of humility. In our culture, we’re trained from an early age to value ourselves above all. How horrifically counterintuitive this is for the person who calls on the name of the Lord for guidance. Needless to say I’ve had to train myself out of self-serving habits and routines. Humility, for the believer, should so evidently mark our lives that there is no mistake where our motives rest, and they certainly should not hold any stock in individual gain. Personal enrichment or the advancement of His Kingdom – take your pick, and be prepared to either pay the toll or reap the reward. Besides, we’ve resolved to love our own lives not unto death if we’re honed in on the commission of Christ. [from Revelation 12:11] In plain English, this means to count our own lives as nothing, even in the face of physical death. As this text probably has to do with holding fast to the truth of the Gospel in the face of persecution (I think of the Christians currently facing extinction in Iraq), I would hope that in like fashion we could say “no” to ourselves today under much more menial circumstances.
“Humility, for the believer, should so evidently mark our lives that there is no mistake where our motives rest, and they certainly should not hold any stock in individual gain.”
The American Dream – I’m not particularly satisfied with John Piper’s teachings or commentary, but his view on the commonly sought after “American Dream” really hits the nail on the head. Early retirement, beefy 401 K accounts and beach homes, according to Piper, do not fit very naturally with the Christian who is called to live a high-risk, radical life. I agree with him. Have you ever read a verse like Matthew 19:21 (below) and thought it best to just avoid its message, at least temporarily? It can become a back-burner topic especially if you’re comfortable, secure, and let’s face it, American. I know I’ve skipped this verse in principle, but it still remains, and there are others like it. I don’t think it’s coincidence either that even before Jesus invited the rich man to follow him, he was to sell all of his belongings first. That’s a hard truth and so is the general message of humbling yourself. Whether it be material things like a walk-in closet, checking account, or car, or intangible things like respect, attention, ambition, or prestige, we as Christians shouldn’t need any of these things to feel good or be good.
“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (MATTHEW 19:21-22)
If we have the right concept about humility, that we’re worth the blood yet commanded to avoid the ways of the world and the methods of the “flesh,” then the American Dream suddenly becomes less appealing and even distasteful. Don’t forget that it will be harder for a wealthy person to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (MATTHEW 19:24 and MARK 10:25) I personally do not like those odds!
I don’t know that there is a more gleaming example in American culture of the problem of ‘self-service’ than the idol of social media. Who knew that people, many of whom are becoming lost (or already are lost) in the futility of their own minds, could present an idealized and gilded version of themselves behind the comfort and convenience of their home computer desk? Welcome to Facebook! There are many things that the worst of social media can bring out in us, namely double-mindedness, the creature of ‘self’ or its counterpart, narcissism, or even simply time being wasted doing something unproductive! This does not just apply to pictures, statuses, and “likes,” but also opinions about every little thing under the sun, like most recently, Bruce Jenner (the sheer amount and quality of the posts I’ve seen on my news feed about this unfortunate story is sickening). Why waste time with opinions when we have truth? Further, why do we need our voices heard? Who are we looking to appeal to? Who is our post(s) directed toward? What are we looking for in response? I believe that the honest answers to these questions are overwhelmingly rooted in ‘self’ for the average social media user.
In a recent article published in Charisma Magazine, John Burton uncovers five commonly used scapegoats for church hoppers that he believes are very unjustifiable in jumping ship. At least four of the five have to do in some way with ‘self’ and lack of humility. They are:
- -When you don’t fit in
- -When it’s easier for you to connect with God elsewhere
- -When the leaders aren’t doing things the way most people think they should
- -When another church has better programs for you and yours
- -When God tells you to (I’d encourage you to read the article to fully understand this point)
As you can see, there are lot of “you’s and they’s” in these excuses folks use to exit their home church. Hear me out, I’m not vouching for blind loyalty, especially if you are clearly being led elsewhere or your church is theologically toppling over, I’m simply saying that the church and your church were not designed for you, but rather you for it. It takes humility to stay and serve if you disagree with the Pastor or the youth program(s) is lacking in some way. The body of Christ needs selfless and humble servants, not opinionated egoists.
The below verse from John 3:27-30 is a perfect example of the virtue of humility being mastered, in this instance it’s John the Baptist conquering ‘self.’ Followers of his [John] were questioning the shift in authority between he and Jesus as Jesus began baptizing just as John had. His reply speaks for itself:
“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
Joe D’Orsie – Communications & Spiritual Life Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org