I’ve been contemplating what it means to be humble. The recent events with the government shut down and foolishness between political parties had me wishing all politicians had to learn true humility before taking office. The way some of them use “Christian values” as a way of condemning people who believe differently raises my blood pressure. I want to tell them just what I think of the way they (mis)use their faith to serve no one but themselves.
Then this past Sunday I preached in a local church. It was not my best sermon ever nor was it my worst. I am a very passionate preacher and I truly love preaching. After worship a parishioner told me how impressed he was that I preached without notes or a manuscript and wanted to know how I did it effectively. Honestly, I never know quite what to say to people when they ask these kinds of questions. In the past I would have downplayed my gifts and explained that I’ve had a lot of experience or some other foolish thing. This time, though, I simply told him that I spend quite a bit of time preparing and that my ability to preach this way is a gift, one I am very grateful for. He looked at me for a moment and then asked if I was always so humble. Ahhh, no.
My thoughts on politicians, my coffee hour conversation, and this week’s gospel reading really have me focused on humility. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that I am not particularly humble. And I don’t know too many people who are. I’m not sure humility is valued overly much. Moreover, I think a lot of other things are mistaken for humility—low-self esteem, insecurity, timidity, and probably a few other things as well.
Jesus said, “…for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” From where I sit, most politicians exalt themselves a bit too much. Then again, I’m fairly sure I don’t humble myself quite the way I should. Of course, I’m not much on exalting myself, either. True humility, though, is difficult and worth attending to.
Any time scripture focuses on a way in which we are to act, it’s pretty much guaranteed that human nature leads in the opposite direction. In this parable in Luke Jesus highlights a few of the less attractive aspects of being human in one short parable. It seems we have a tendency to trust in ourselves more than our God, judge others to justify ourselves, and fall short of humbly walking with God.
The challenge here is to recognize our gifts and our faults with honesty and integrity. If we can claim our gifts, wisely use them, and thank God for them, we’re off to a good start. Then if we can also name our sins, repent, and ask God for forgiveness, then we might have some real humility.
I don’t know about you, but I find it much easy to criticize others and downplay my gifts, than to stand before God and fully claim my gifts while asking for the grace to use them wisely.
RCL- Year C – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost – October 27, 2013
Joel 2:23-32 with Psalm 65 or
Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 with Psalm 84:1-7
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18