There hasn’t been a whole lot of press coverage on humility lately. Instead, stories about criminals, athletes, and politicians usually grab the attention of the reading public. But a story about a humble person doesn’t generate interest. For one thing, such a story doesn’t sell newspapers. Newspapers are in the business of making a profit. And secondly, a story on humility is boring. Who wants to read a story about someone who isn’t interested in fanfare and publicity but is content with his modest lifestyle and considers himself unimportant? There isn’t much exciting reading in that. So we very seldom, if ever, encounter stories about the humble in the world. As a matter of fact, humility isn’t encouraged in our society. Our society is all about sticking out your chest, standing proud and tall, and saying, "Look at me, everybody. Ain’t I neat? Ain’t I special? Look at me."
As I’ve often said, though, humility is a trait that the Lord Jesus values. I know it goes against the grain of society, but that is what our Lord considers valuable in a person. "Me first" is out the window. That philosophy has no place in Christianity. It should have no place in our hearts. But we all love attention, anyway.
Often times, we act in a certain way to gain attention for ourselves. Why is it that we like to be the center of attention? Why do we like to be noticed? Maybe it has to do with being afraid of being nonexistent. If people don’t notice us, it’s as if we don’t exist. We like existence. We like existing. We like it when our existence is affirmed. Maybe this explains why we like to be the center of attention. Maybe we’re insecure. Sticking our face in front of everyone else’s to make sure they know we’re here is our way to combat our insecurity. Or, perhaps a better reason is because we are sinful. Sin has made us blind to the reality of existences outside ourselves. In other words, we don’t think others exist in the same way we do. Therefore, they can’t possibly be as important as we are. "I’m the center of the universe."
Are we really happy when we exalt ourselves over others? A person who craves constant attention really isn’t happy with himself. I would say he’s insecure. But if a person is confident in the Lord, then he doesn’t have to go through such effort to exalt himself and annoy everyone else in the process. We can find security in the Lord. And once we have that, the Lord will exalt us. If we act humbly before the Lord, the Lord will raise us up. We don’t have to worry about exalting ourselves before people because the Lord will do that for us. We don’t have to remind people how wonderful we are.
I know we fall into the devil's trap at times. We're tempted to assert ourselves. We also fool ourselves into believing that the world couldn't go on if it weren't for us or that nobody knows as much as we do about something. We're the authority. But I have news for us. We aren't as great and wonderful as we think we are. The only one who can make the claim to greatness is the Lord Jesus Himself. If we're honest with ourselves we can't but admit this.
What amazes me about the Lord is that even though He had every right to make such a claim, He took His place last in line. He forsook Himself so that we might have life. Had He thought only of Himself we would not have the hope of eternal life. The Lord could have said, "Why should I die for them? Why should I give up the comfort of heaven to get them out of the mess they got themselves into?" He could have said this and left us to die forever. But He didn't. He suffered at the hands of men to save us. The irony of it all is that the Lord became great in that He thought of us instead of Himself. He humbled Himself and gave us an example to follow.
The one who would like to be great must be last of all. I know that goes contrary to our reason, but that's what Jesus said. He said whoever would be first must be last. That means forsaking ourselves like He did.
I know it's a lot easier said than done. It's hard to put our ego in its place. Being humble means giving up our pride. We know how hard that is. We know what it's like to have our pride hurt. Well, the challenge before us is obvious. Trying to be humble in this life in order to be exalted in the next life.
The question that often times goes through our minds is, is it worth giving up our pride to be great in the kingdom of heaven? Is it worth having our pride bruised in this life to gain treasure in heaven? I say it is. What Jesus promises us has to be better than this life. And why would Jesus lie to us? What does He have to gain by not being up front with us? The answer is nothing. So maybe it's worth a great deal of our effort to be last in order to gain life eternal.
We have a big challenge before us. If we want to be exalted, we must be humble people of God. If we want to be in the front, we have to be in the back. Self-sacrifice is hard. Letting our pride get trampled on is a hard pill to swallow. Being humble isn't natural to us. Wanting to be first is.
What can we do to be following our Lord's will for us to be humble? The thing we can do is turn to Jesus for help. We can't overcome our sinful desires by ourselves. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to put our egos in the proper place. It's in our best interest to do this, because if we pursue the Lord and humble ourselves before Him and others, we will receive an eternal treasure. That’s the point in our text.
Besides, if you ask me a humble person is much more pleasant to be with. Loud and obnoxious me-first types aren’t at all interesting. The quicker they’re gone and out of the way, the better things go.
I know it's hard to humble ourselves because we think we are more worthy and deserving than others are. But let's remember the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. He humbled Himself for our sakes. He was beaten and killed. But He rose from the dead and now is seated at the right hand of God. If we believe in the Lord Jesus no matter how difficult that may be in life, we too will be seated with the Lord in heaven.