Monday, August 4

Not a means to an end

At Quest recently, we have been talking about humility. It is kind of a difficult topic. We all recognize humility when we see it in others. But putting humility into practice in our own life is more difficult. Sure, we can take actions displaying humility, but acting humbly and being humble aren’t quite the same.

One of the reasons, and perhaps even THE reason, why God values humility is because God himself is humble. God, the creator of the universe, could certain demand that people follow his will. In fact, he could force us to if he wanted. But he is humble enough to allow us to choose whether or not we want to follow him. I can think of no greater display of humility.

Similarly, Jesus displays humility throughout his life. At the very beginning of his ministry, when he was at the wedding in Cana, his mother knows that he has the power from God to solve the problem with the lack of wine. Yet Jesus is reluctant to display that power. When he does become involved, he does it in the way that will result in the least uproar and attention to himself.

Just a few chapters later, after the feeding of the 5,000, the people want to make Jesus into a king. Not only is this not what Jesus wants, John 6:15 tells us that he went to a mount all by himself so that the people wouldn’t be able to do it.

We can also see this humility in the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. This point is particularly driven home when John tells us that Jesus took this action at the moment when he know that God had put all things under his power(John 13:3). Jesus is aware of his power, and it is at that moment that he acts humbly.

When we discuss humility, we often focus on the rewards of humility. For example, there are several places where Jesus tells us that those who humble themselves will be exalted, and both James and Peter tell us that if we humble ourselves, then God will lift us up. However, as soon as we start focusing on the rewards, humility simply becomes a means to an end. People want to be exalted, and they see acting humbly as the way to get to that end within the kingdom of God.

I am convinced that this kind of thinking misses the point. Humility isn’t a means to an end. It is the end itself. A truly humble person doesn’t care about being exalted. That kind of attention and recognition is something that others do. The humble person isn’t looking for it, and is probably embarrassed when it happens. Someone who is trying to be exalted by being humble isn’t really being humble. We shouldn’t be trying to be humble so that we can be exalted. Instead, we should be trying to be humble because Jesus is humble, and our goal should be to try to be as much like Jesus as possible. If we are successful, we will be exalted because we have become more Christ-like. However, at that point we won’t care about it because humble people aren’t interested in personal honor or glory.

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