I’m becoming less tolerant of arrogance these days – especially from Christians. There’s definitely something to be said for confidence, but let’s be honest – we all know the difference between confidence and arrogance. I know a number of people who are confidently humble.
Today, I had the opportunity to have share conversations with two humble Christians diligently seeking to do what’s right and what God would have them do. I’ve never seen them on the website for a big conference. They haven’t written any books, but people like them inspire me.
And then an hour later, I got into an argument with my wife. And it was my turn to humble myself. Self-righteousness felt good temporarily. It pumped some pleasing combination of adrenaline and testosterone (I think) into my bloodstream. But when all was said and done, I was in the wrong position. It was time to get back on my knees and confess my error to her and to God.
In case you’re not convinced about humility yet, here are some helpful words from Jesus himself on the subject:
Matthew 18:1-5 (NRSV)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Then after he gives instructions on how to handle people’s errors in a Christian community, he tells this parable about a man who owed a great debt. I know I identify with the guy who had a big debt (i.e., lots of mistakes that have harmed me, my relationship with others, and my relationship with God).
Matthew 18:23-35 (NRSV)
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents* was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;** and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
* A talent is about 15 years’ wages
** A denarius is about a day’s wages (big difference, eh?)
Jesus reserves his harshest language for lack of compassion and forgiveness and also for abuse of power over those weaker than we are.
Fortunately, Jesus’ promise is that are forgiven through faith in him. So let’s hang on to that humility and bring forgiveness, compassion, and reconciliation into the world!
How do you stay humble? Need help forgiving? Tired of hypocrisy? (Careful with that one.) Leave a comment!