Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what the does the Lord requires of you but to do justly, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God”
Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”
How often must we learn this basic truth, “Be humble or you’ll stumble.” Though the message is very simple and basic, many of us choose to keep learning it over and over again. George Washington Carver, the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut said: “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And He told me.” And Michel de Montaigne was quoted “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit on our own bottom.”
Learning to be humble is of paramount importance in most spiritual traditions, and humility can help you develop more fully and enjoy richer relationships with others, as well as creating opportunities to earn respect. Nonetheless as the old Country song says “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.” It’s a fact that while living in a society that encourages competition and individuality, that true humility is a rare virtue. Yet humility is considered very important in our relationship with both God and people.
Jesus was very direct with the Scribes and Pharisees of his day. Although they were the religious role models, in truth they were also people who battled with enormous levels of pride. They were the spiritual superstars, the paragons of piety, God’s own Dream Team. Nothing made them happier than the honor at banquets and best seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the marketplace. They sat on the seat of the great prophet Moses, dressed as wise teachers of the law, with broad phylacteries and long fringes—the religious bling of the first century. I can imagine them stroking their beards and beaming with pride when people called them “rabbi.” Matthew 23:1-7
They were flying high and completely out of touch. And Jesus needed to bring them down. “Do whatever they teach,” he says, “but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Vs. 2-3. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Jesus observes… “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others…but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” vs 4. As exceptional men, they believed it’s their duty to offer the gift of moral clarity. But as for the practice of charity? That is someone else’s problem.
Clarity, without charity, equaled hypocrisy! But in its place Jesus recommended humility. “You are not to be called rabbi for you have one teacher, and you are all students,” “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.” Vs. 8-10. Then Jesus surprises everyone with a statement that turns the entire social structure upside down, sending the arrogant down to the boiler room and the humble to the finest suite. “The greatest among you will be your servant,” he predicts. “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” vs. 11-12.
This is a wake-up call…trading places…a grand reversal of fortune. I guess you could call it the “height of the humility…and the lowliness of pride.” But long before Jesus addressed it Micah prophesied it…” And what the does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”