The reality is, I am rather like British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. Of his widely observed modesty, World War II hero Winston Churchill is said to have once remarked dryly that Attlee had “much to be modest about.”
I guess that thought maybe keeps me humble in the meantime—although my understanding of what it really means to be so was challenged recently by a Bible vignette. Apparently, humility is much more than being self-effacing.
My lesson came as I read of when the disciples, jockeying for position on Jesus’ team, asked Him: Who is the great in the kingdom of heaven? In Matthew 18:2-4, we read:
“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
Three things struck me from that short exchange.
Humility acknowledges God. C.S. Lewis wrote that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. In other words, it’s having a proper sense of perspective about who you are and your place in the world (hint: there is a God, and you are not Him). Most kids don’t have to work at being humble; they just are. They know they don’t run the show.
Humility listens to God. I don’t think the youngster Jesus chose was jumping up and down, shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!” Given that children were largely on the periphery of religious life in Jesus’ day, the child was probably pretty surprised when He called him (or her) forward. Humility may not expect some grand role, but it’s open to God using you even when it seems unlikely and whatever anyone else may say. When we are really secure in our relationship with God and know what He thinks of us, we’ll be less worried about others’ opinions.
Humility obeys God. If you’re not being humble when you think too much of yourself, you’re equally not being humble when you think too little of yourself. You may not consider yourself up to whatever God has called you forward for, but He does. If God puts the spotlight on you like He did the little kid, it’s not being humble to say, “Oh no, not me, choose someone else.” It’s not even false modesty. It’s disobedience.
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