Some years ago, I met a man who was writing a book on humility. I immediately quipped, "I'm proud of my humility!" The writer laughed, but it occurred to me that instead of asking him some questions and learning from him, I put myself on stage and he was my audience--not exactly humble of me, was it?
We've all heard people say, "I'm not perfect, but I'm a good person." But as Jesus said, "No one is good but God alone." (Mark 10:18) The faith that God has given us believers has not made us "good" people. We still are sinful by nature. Christ gives us His righteousness through the faith in Him (which He also gives us). Our good works are reflections of the new life in Christ and our desire to please Him. We don't like displeasing the Lord, but still we do.
Paul addresses this issue when he confessed, "For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." (Romans 7:22-23)
And we still sin against each other. James asked, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." (James 4:1-3)
Anger, bitterness, hate, and fear all come from lack of trust in the Lord and focus on the self or circumstances. We hide from God after seeking self-fulfillment, just like that first couple in Eden. We think that our goodness or worth is found in our own or other human eyes, instead of God's.
Being humble is not an accomplishment, but a sign of confidence in our Lord's promise of salvation and eternal life. It comes from submitting the self to God. It begins with recognition that you are accountable to Him, to acknowledge that He must be first in your life, to subordinate your will to His, to open your heart and ears to His Word and let it steer your values, choices, and decisions. This is not self-loathing or slavery. It is obsession with the self that is slavery. None of this comes from what we do, but begins with prayer, which follows an awareness of God that He give us.
Humility comes to one who recognizes that he or she is personally powerless in the struggle against sin and is completely dependent on Christ for salvation. What Jesus and James meant by asking and receiving is for a heart that is fertile for reception of the Gospel. As James wrote (4:8) "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." Pray for that fertile heart, softened by the reality of the humiliating death of God in the flesh on the cross for your sins. And you, believer, will be resurrected just like He was and will live in complete wholeness forever and ever. Humbling, isn't it? Gloria Deo--Glory to God.
Rev. Timothy Matthew
is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran
Church in Kennett.