Humility for us human beings is an accurate appraisal of where we each stand before God. If we are truly humble, we know that God loves all people, that we are all made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), so that none of us stands out above the rest no matter his or her education, social standing, color, looks, wealth or poverty. There is nothing that distinguishes any one of us or puts us above any other in the kingdom of God. Humility means that we know that God is mighty before us, that He created the heavens and the earth, the stars and the planets plus thousands of species of plants and animals on our earth alone.
So, each of us is a small grain of dust compared to the Lord Himself. Now, I do believe there is an advantage in being a devoted follower of Christ or of the Torah, because it means that we have, with God’s help, torn down the walls that naturally exist in our human cultures between the Divine and the human. But, that still doesn’t put us above any other human being in God’s eyes. It simply means that we are able to be used to spread His word of love throughout this earth.
It means that we can greatly relax and not follow our agendas, our desires, our narrative. These earth-bound burdens we set aside in light of Jesus’s promises that in following Him we will not carry the load: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) . We are asked to follow God and His ways to His destiny for each of us. And, as long as we are willing to follow Him, then we are assured that all our needs and all our deepest desires will be fulfilled. There is nothing that we need to worry about; all we have to do is to follow where the Lord leads us.
Perhaps the most vivid teaching about humility in the Bible is in Phillippians 2:5-8:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Humility doesn’t come easily to Americans. We’re taught to always be climbing above others, to be distinguishing ourselves vis-à-vis others. We look down on those not as fortunate as we are, as if God paid more attention to us than to them. We easily separate ourselves out from our families, our clans, or communities, so that we can aspire to so much more than others. There is little humility in our culture, unless one has been downtrodden and cast aside.
Jesus did show us how to live: in love and forgiveness, in humility and caring for others. If we are true followers of Jesus, then we will be distinguished by how we care for and pay attention to others. We will not just donate money to help them, but we will engage with the poor and needy ones in this world. We will get to know them and their aspirations for their lives. We will ask God to bless them. We will continue to see how we can help. We will be so determined in our actions towards the poor and the outcast that we may face persecution and being an outcast ourselves. Jesus wasn’t on this earth proclaiming how He was the Son of God. He was actively helping, healing, loving people, and teaching what brings fulfillment and love to our lives. After a few moments of regretting His fate in Gethsemane, He went willingly to the cross, because that was what was ordained for Him. His love of the Father prevailed over His concerns for His own self.
I’ve been reading Fr. Gregory Boyle’s third book, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, about his programs, Homeboys and Homegirls Industries, to transform ex-gang members in East Los Angeles into wholesome, loving men and women. I’ve learned so much from his books about the reasons for people choosing gangs or other less than wonderful choices in their lives, but I was so struck by this statement of his: “If we try and see as God does, we just notice how unwell and damaged people are and they can’t, just yet, get at their goodness. It’s not about fault, it’s about impediment.” It’s not about our sin, our unwillingness to obey God’s laws, but about our being handicapped by our pain and suffering, so that we cannot tap into our own innate goodness.
Of course, it is not just gang members who have low self-esteem, who have suffered abusive, alcoholic or distant parents–who can’t see their own goodness; we all have been damaged by low self-esteem and abusive circumstances and a culture that celebrates materialism and competition. We, too, cannot see our own natural goodness, which is innate in us as we were created in God’s image.
In summary, I believe that humility is the one quality that allows us to see the truth about ourselves and others—that we are bathed in goodness which emerges as we begin to listen to God and to learn how to love ourselves and others. It brings us back to God and what He wants for and what He needs from our lives. Only God and His Son stand above us and we are totally beholden to Them. Humility is a great teacher for us! Amen!
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need.
Questions to ponder over the week: As a follower of Jesus, how humble am I? Do I think I am better than others because I am saved? Do I see Jesus in every person I meet, or do I judge them for not being the right kind of people? How do I deal with my own imperfection? By denying it? Or accepting it?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who see the value of every human being, who see others as God sees them with love and forgiveness.
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 Fr. Gregory Boyle, The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness, (New York: Avid Reader Press, 2021) p. 38