Monday, September 15, 2014

Self-Exaltation is Bad; Humility is Good

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Humility is the foundational attitude of the Jesus-life. Philippians 2:8 reads: being found in appearance as a man, Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Our English word "humble" derives from the Latin humus, which means "earth," or "soil." It came to mean, in the Latin word humilis, "low." Such as in the movie "Get Low," which is about the morphing of a proud man to a humble man.

In the Jesus-life self-exaltation is bad, humility is good. Jesus said, For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. A person with a humble heart gets low, gets below, gets beneath God and others. Only a person whose heart is humble can be a servant like Jesus was. Only a non-self-exalted person can exalt the Lord, since this requires placing the Lord above one's own self. This defines the locus of the ongoing spiritual battle between darkness and light.

Thomas Merton writes: "A man who is not stripped and poor and naked within his own soul will unconsciously tend to do the works he has to do for his own sake rather than for the glory of God. He will be virtuous not because he loves God but because he wants to admire his own virtues." (Seeds, 106-107) The recognition of one's spiritual poverty is good. Everyone is spiritually destitute; not everyone recognizes it. Such recognition is the beginning of real humility.

This is not about "getting humbled." Everyone gets humbled; not so many become humble. Pride, arrogance, and shame (which is pride's evil twin) are hard conditions to break. Merton writes: "every moment of the day will bring [the proud person] some frustration that will make him bitter and impatient and in his impatience he will be discovered." (107)

The proud person has planned to do "spectacular things" so as to be seen by others. "He cannot conceive himself without a halo. And when the events of his daily life keep reminding him of his own insignificance and mediocrity, he is ashamed, and his pride refuses to swallow a truth at which no sane man should be surprised." (107)

So, I see that: 
  • This universe does not revolve around me
  • I need help
  • I am troubled inside
  • Any outward accomplishments and outward appearances cannot cure what lies inside me
  • What knowledge I do have is infinitesimally small compared to all the knowledge that is to be had (I'm nowhere near as smart as I might have thought I was)
  • I am not better and therefore more loved by Christ than other people
  • I am not to measure myself by other people, but by Christ
  • I am not God's gift to mankind, but Christ is