#117 "Humble Pie"
October 16, 2007
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12: 3)
A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, "Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?" The pastor replied, "Mary, that's not a sin, why that's just a mistake!"
The Bible instructs us not to think of ourselves "more highly than [we] ought." The New Living Translation puts it this way: "Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves." And the Amplified Bible: "[Do not] have an exaggerated opinion of [your] own importance." The Lord Himself says, "I hate pride and arrogance" (Proverbs 8: 13), and that He "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
Pride is an insidious sin that is inherant in each one of us. You know as well as I do that it is so easy to think that we are all that and a bag of chips. We puff ourselves up over our accomplishments, our possessions, and even our service to God. The simple fact that we are Christians and "they" are not, can cause us to walk in pride. When God says that He "opposes" the proud, the Greek word, "antitassetai" is used, and it means that He battles against the proud. I think that the Almighty started a little skirmish with me this week. Not a full out battle but just enough to humble me.
I was humbled when I heard about a husband and wife who have taken in two children, one who is autistic and the other who has attachment disorder. This young couples' love for two little ones who would have no one without them, humbled me. I was humbled when I heard about another couple who take people into their home, and most recently provided a hospice in their living room for a dying friend. They love and give, even when they know that their hearts will be broken. I was humbled when my community group leader got down on her knees last night and washed the feet of every person there. She wanted us to know how much she loved us and to let us know that she was our servant. I was humbled when I learned that my pastor was walking the streets of the eastside of Detroit, at night, praying and talking to the young men who hang out on the street corners. I can no longer think more highly of myself than I ought.
The world would call things like this "random acts of kindness". I submit to you that there is nothing "random" about them. Compelled by the love of Jesus Christ, they love. Compelled by His forgiveness, they love much.
We might become discouraged when we look at what others in the body of Christ are doing. But let me say to you that humility is not humiliation. Humility is having the proper perspective on who we are and on our service to God. We become discouraged if we do not read the next verses in Romans 12. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
Look at that. We don't all have the same function. We have different gifts. We are not all called to take unloved children into our home. We are not all called to set up hospices in our living rooms. We are not all called to walk the streets of the inner city. We are not all called to preach and teach. But we ARE all called to wash some feet. (see John 13: 14-15) We are called to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. (see John 15: 16) We have different gifts and callings but one Savior who will lead us to exactly where He wants to go. And He wants to go many places. To companies, to hospital rooms, to homes and schools and neighborhood porches. He wants to go to churches and soup kitchens and jails and homeless shelters. We are a body with many members. We are the hands and feet of Christ. He can't go unless we go. We are His Body!
Don't be so proud of your service that you look down on others who don't share the same vision. They're not supposed to! God has gifted each one of us uniquely. He allows our individual hearts to break over different things. He endows us with different gifts to serve Him in different places. In just that way, fruit is born from the neighborhood to the farthest reaches of the world. One gifted believer at a time ... one submitted life at a time. Stay away from pride!
On the flip side, don't be discouraged by those you think may have a greater gift than you. We belong to one another. We are all individual parts of the same Body, with the same purpose and the same Head. "...those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. ...God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12: 22-23a, 24b-26) Be humble, but not humiliated. Your gift is vitally important to the Body, no matter what it is. It was given to you, tailor made, by God Himself.
Balance is the key. A quote from Guideposts put it this way, "God wisely designed the human body so that we can neither pat our own backs nor kick ourselves too easily."
Proper perspective is found in the realization that we can do nothing apart from Christ Himself. (John 15: 5) He is the Vine, we are the branches. We must remain in Him, abide in Him and obey Him. Wherever it is that He leads, to whomever He leads. You're going to go places I will never go. I will speak to people that you never will. But that's what it's all about.
I can't sum this up in a better way than this: Corrie Ten Boom writes in "Each New Day", "When I saw Sadhu Sundar Singh in Europe, he had completed a tour around the world. People asked him, Doesn't it do harm, your getting so much honor?" The Sadhu's answer was: "No. The donkey went into Jerusalem, and they put garments on the ground before him. He was not proud. He knew it was not done to honor him, but for Jesus, who was sitting on his back. When people honor me, I know it is not me, but the Lord, who does the job."
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last." ...Jesus
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