The Downside of an Asset
I remember coming to the realization in my twenties that I was a know-it-all. Actually, I come from a long line of people “in the know”. 😏 Taking charge, making decisions, or sizing up problems comes naturally. What doesn’t come as easily is humility. For that matter, neither does change. 🤦♀️
Sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, I began to see the family trait. Leadership qualities were obvious from a family with so many men. My dad was one of 6 sons, many of whom were leaders in the community through business, church, or charitable organizations. The family joke was that in our family, there were plenty of chiefs but not enough Indians.
One of the cautions I have learned though from the Lord is how a strength can just as easily become our weakness if we aren’t careful. Leadership abilities are useful for accomplishing worthy goals but the downside is that pride can be a nagging component.
Just ask the disciples.
The Caution For Their Calling
Jesus chose each disciple for a reason. He knew what they were like when He selected them and He also knew how He would transform them. From the moment they accepted His call to become “fishers of men”, they were being mentored in His ways.
The inner circle of those closest to Christ are a good example of the change that needed to take place. Peter (bold and brash), along with James and John (the “sons of thunder”), were a handful, to say the least. If they weren’t rebuking the Son of God or threatening to call down fire from heaven on those who dared to upset them, they were jockeying for favoritism. Humility certainly wasn’t an obvious characteristic at this point in their lives.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise when we see in Mark 9:33-37 ESV an inner conflict that arose among the disciples.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.
Matthew 18:1-4 NIV also gives insight into this argument.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was confronting them over their self-serving agendas. Determining who is most valuable in the kingdom is like taking credit for being born. Basically, we have nothing to do with it. It’s a God thing, not a “me” thing. We offer no initiation of the process nor any effort during it.
Pride vs. Humility
The disciples had been called and gifted for a purpose. Just like we have. Therefore, to take credit for what they had no ability to originate or maintain is prideful. They were misguided in thinking they had anything to offer other than what Christ supplied them.
One of my favorite verses helps me understand what “man” brings to the table. Romans 11:36 ESV says,
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
So basically, we bring NOTHING to the equation of how God uses us. Therefore, not one of us is more “worthy” than another. He calls each of us, equips us for His purpose, then we need to be faithful to the task given.
Just like a child has nothing to offer in the sense of achievements to commend themselves, neither do we before God. We are all equally worthy and equally needy.
The childlike example of humility shows us what is valued by Christ- simple, dependent, trust of those who have no resources of their own. Young children usually aren’t interested in self-serving agendas. They don’t strive to be better than the rest or have more than others.
Pride makes us strive for more than the next person. It isn’t enough to have what we have, we want more than the next guy. We aren’t satisfied being average, we want to be the “greatest” in our own estimation and that of others.
Humility is exemplified through the life of Christ. To understand the facets of humility, we just need to learn from His ways like the disciples were expected to do.
- consider the needs of others
- seek God’s agenda for your own
- seek after a life of obedience, not achievements
- value God’s reputation more than your own
- not easily angered
- understand that you are not your own
These are just some of the many characteristics of humility that we can glean from Christ.
The Need for Change
Jesus specifically identified the need for “change” in the disciples’ behavior. He stressed it as a necessity for entering the kingdom of heaven. Although He had grace and mercy for them in the moment, knowing they had not yet received His Holy Spirit, He did expect them to grow in the discipline of humility.
Being a disciple of Christ brings with it an expectation for progressive change in our character.Being His disciple requires a continual, lifelong expectation of change! Click To Tweet
An Example of Change
From those sitting at that same kitchen table in my grandmother’s kitchen, I have seen a change come over the one I know best. My father was just as much of a know it all as the rest of us, but an interesting thing took place as he entered his mid-late fifties. I saw the man who used to be quick to speak now quick to listen. He used to be eager to offer his opinion and experience on many matters, now I can tell he holds back his vast knowledge at times. I recognize his restraint, not weighing in on everything or being dogmatic.
This is not who he used to be. My father has shown me the possibility and power of humility through the change in his life. Some people may think as we age, we become more stuck in our ways. I have learned that as long as Christ is my motivation and example, I too can change
Isn’t that what sanctification is? Isn’t that what is necessary if we want Christlikeness?
There is no path to humility apart from change. Let us continue to follow hard for All that He is!