Pursuing humility is counter-cultural. When seeking employment, we’ve been directed to build resumes that highlight our greatest strengths. When vying for a promotion, it is not uncommon to see a highly competitive environment emerge in the workplace where ‘one-up-manship’ becomes the preferred method for climbing the corporate ladder. When trying out for a sports team it is necessary for the athlete to demonstrate his or her superiority over the other prospects. In a society where ‘appearance is everything’, we’ve been conditioned to always present well.
The follower of Jesus, however, has been directed differently. We’ve been called to pursue humility. The word literally means, ‘to make oneself low’. In answering His disciples question about greatness (Mark 9:33, 34), Jesus points to humility as an essential characteristic,
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3, 4)
Parents of recognize that there are ways in which young children are most certainly not humble. Young children are not devoid of pride. Young children have difficulty thinking beyond their own needs. In what sense then, are children humble that we should seek to be like them?
Children are humble in the sense that they readily accept their status as dependents. Children have an acute sense of their need for parental oversight. There is a kind of yielding that young children are extremely good at.
What I think Jesus is suggesting with this comparison to young children is that being a Christian is not a do-it-yourself endeavour. That is to say that becoming and growing as a Christian does not come from trusting in our own abilities, but by trusting in another—Christ.
If I could give humility another word it would be teachable. Jesus wants His followers to be teachable. As we approach the Scriptures in private study and in corporate worship, we benefit when we allow the Word to examine and judge us, rather than the other way around.
Being teachable will greatly facilitate our transformation towards Christ-likeness. And being humble will open the gateway to progress with many other key character traits. In short, pursuing humility will help us to GROW.
On Sunday March 29, I delivered a message on this subject at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well. Taking my cue from Jesus’ teaching, I am convinced that pursuing this trait is vital for our spiritual health. What do you think? Have a listen and let me know.