Friday, October 13, 2006

Why Our Ideas of Humbleness May Be Wrong

What does it mean to be humble? I believe most people would agree that being humble is the opposite of being boastful or proud. Many would even agree that a humble person is one who would never acknowledge that they are humble. Their view of a humble person is one who rejects bringing attention to themselves, is nice to everyone, tends to be self-deprecating, never claims to be better than someone else, and never seeks praise from others. Some people believe that humble people even shun other people's praise.

But are these popular notions justified? I think in some circumstances they are. But they may not be the rule. Here's why: look at Jesus, the most humble among men.

On the issue of humble people never claiming to be humble:
" 'All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

" 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11:27-30)"

On the issue of humble people never bringing attention to themselves:
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' (John 8:12)"
On the issue of humble people being nice to everyone:
"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!' (John 2:13-16)"

" 'Woe to you, blind guides! You say, "If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath." You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, "If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath." You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.' (Matthew 23)"
On the issue of humble people being self-deprecating or never claiming to be better than someone else (emphasis mine):
"Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.' Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (John 8:28-30)"

"Jesus replied, 'If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.' (John 8:54-55)"
These examples should give us pause for two reasons. It should temper what we think we know about the Bible and Jesus, and they should cause us to think more deeply about how we read the Bible. If you read the Bible as a book of rules and laws, we may miss the point. Even if we read the Bible for general principles, we can be fooled in believing that the key to following the Bible's teachings is to break the principles down into easy-to-follow steps (or rules). "Jesus helped people, so our life's work is helping people by giving them a middle-class lifestyle, an American value system, good grooming habits, and responsible treatment of the environment."

First of all, the Bible is not a single book, but rather a library of testimony from various sources, from various perspectives and genres. Although it is a collection of different writings from different authors, it contains a single theme and testimony about an invisible God. It testifies that this God created everything we understand as physical. This God allowed us to exist with wills of our own, like He has. And though mankind rebelled against Him, He worked throughout history to bring about what He intended all along: to reveal Himself in physical form within our physical understanding, and create a path for mankind to return to Him for all eternity in unbroken relationship.

There's more to it than that, because the Bible is obviously very thick! But the idea that we can read the Bible for general principles and learn ways of conducting ourselves is seriously falling far short of its goals. Like Jesus said to the religious of his day, "
the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:37-40)

Let's humble ourselves and seek truth, grace, and honesty in our relationships with God, with ourselves, and with other people, for that is the goal of this life and for eternity.

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