9/2/01, P13C

“Humility and How Not to Attain It
Luke 14: 7-12

ne of my Dad's favorite quips was about a man who wrote a book entitled, Humility and How I Attained It. There was a moral lesson in the amusing story in that anyone who was truly humble would not be so brazen as to write a book about it.

If we were to meet a truly humble person we probably would not recognize their humility, and neither would they, for they would not be focused on themselves. They would not be the groveling sort of person that we have been conditioned by society to expect. False humility is never appreciated. However, genuine humility always attracts. Too many people are pretentiously humble. However, genuine restraint, modesty and unpretentiousness are recognized virtues in all cultures.

Our Ginger cat is not humble for she goes around all day saying what sounds like "meow," but she is really saying "Me Now!" That is the nature of a cat but not necessarily of a person because God has given us the potential of a higher selflessness. Christian humility comes from identification with Jesus and the realization of our unworthiness as we bow at the foot of the Cross. Like all spiritual virtues it is given by His Grace through faith. It is a natural result of accepting His plan for our lives. Christianity adds to the definition of humility a sense of one's being focused on others more than upon one's own self.

In our text this morning we hear Jesus saying, "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Lk 14:11). We humble ourselves by accepting His call and by placing others first. Those who are living by this high moral ideal will naturally not seat themselves at the head table at a banquet or business meeting in order to get attention. However, if there is a place card with your name on it you would only appear falsely meek not to sit where you are invited to. As in Jesus' day we still see proud folks positioning themselves ahead of others. The humble spirit gives one a sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others and would never usurp someone's rightful place. Typically, when one is seen pushing ahead there is a perceived feeling that that person needs to be put in his, or her, place.

We have even known persons to use the church as a way of advancing themselves. A pastor friend told me that he had a church member tell him that it would look good on his resume to be able to say that he had been a leader in his church. Clergy too can be guilty of promoting themselves. I appreciated what our Superintendent said at our Clergy Meeting last week, "Do not think of the ministry as a 'Career,' we are servants seeking to help persons through Christ's Kingdom." The true joy of ministry, both ordained and lay, is to find a Divinely led place to happily serve others in Jesus' name. The only happy pastors that I know are those who have abandoned a career path, and all of its tricks of getting to the top rung in the ladder, for a life of service. It has been surprising how many have been exalted by ending up in a significant local church in which to serve and love persons.

It is the same in secular positions too. Years ago, I had a church member who was chosen to head one of the great corporations of Atlanta. He did not seem like anyone who would have politicked to be selected and we all wondered by what criteria he was selected. I asked someone who worked for the same company how it had happened and his response was, "Nobody was afraid of him. Everyone else, some with more impressive credentials, had clawed their way to the top by stepping on the corpses of others, but our friend had been advanced because he was trusted and had made many genuine friends."

The extra dimension of Christian humility is seen in one's taking pride in what Christ has done in offering Abundant Life to all. This means that once we are ourselves captured by the Gospel we will want to insure that everyone has an opportunity to experience the same salvation. One's life is therefore propelled outward and not inward. Thus, the mark of a humble servant of Christ is an apparent desire to share the Good News that has so positively effected his, or her, life. Humility is natural result of loving one's neighbor more than one's own self. It can not help but change one's life dramatically.
I heard a true story this week of a college professor who suddenly quit his long
worked for position. Everybody wondered why. Some were glad because that opened a position for them. However, one concerned friend went to find him. The former Prof. had gotten a job delivering mail in a small community. His friend from the university asked him, "Why are you wasting your Ph.D.?" His answer was, "Well, you know how it is with ungrateful students who don't care about learning; I would be in the middle of a lecture and one on the back row would raise his hand and ask if he had to learn this for the final exam." "Are you at least a good mailman?" The friend asked. "No, I am not good at all. Everybody else is through before three o'clock and it takes me until five, because I like to talk to people on my route, and I am sometimes able to help them. Some of my folks on the mail route rented a hall and gave a surprise birthday party for me. That made it all seem worthwhile. And best of all, I know that I am doing what God wants me to do."

Perhaps it is fitting on this Labor Day Weekend to point out that it is possible to find a way to serve others in almost every job. Indeed, many of us were heavily influenced by wonderful professors who changed our lives by the tender mercy of Jesus working through them. The work of humility is the implementation of Christian Charity at its best. It is God's love made manifest within the human struggle. Humble Christian Charity is seen whenever we put ego aside and reach out in Jesus' name to help somebody. Sometimes all that is needed is a kind word, or a smile. Humility is found through becoming the hands and voices of Christ in the world. We learned in Sunday School that when the Apostles came to Jesus and asked who would be the greatest in the kingdom that he took a little child in his arms and said, "Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of God." (Mat. 18: 1-4).

Is this not the kind of person that we want God to enable us to become?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

9/2/01, P13C