In the book of Luke, Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Humility is not a popular topic in the U.S. today, since we seem to idolize the pompous and arrogant. In a time when people seek to elevate themselves, humility is found lacking. Even talking about humility is tough, in that people can try to talk about who is the most humble or announce their own great humility (as in the current election process).
Humility is a theme of Jesus’ life, and was not new to the Jewish tradition. But it is a hard topic for us. God calls us to have the humility and trust to recognize that every seat at the table of God is a good seat, a seat that allows us to receive the fullness of God’s blessing, the fullness of what God promises.
Alcoholics Anonymous defines humility this way:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself.
It is thinking of yourself less.”
I believe that’s a great definition. It is about thinking about ourselves less and about others more.
Do we live as welcoming people?
Do we speak welcoming words?
Do we have welcoming attitudes? Especially toward those who have nothing to offer us in return?
There is a story told about the funeral of Charlemagne. Charlemagne was the Christian ruler of the early Middle Ages, and after his death, a tremendous funeral procession left his castle for the cathedral at Aix. When the royal casket arrived, with a lot of pomp and circumstance, it was met by the local bishop, who barred the cathedral door.
“Who comes?” the Bishop asked, as was the custom.
“Charlemagne, Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire!” proclaimed the Emperor’s proud herald.
“Him I know not,” the Bishop replied. “Who comes?”
The herald, a bit shaken, replied, “Charles the Great, a good and honest man of the earth.”
“Him I know not,” the Bishop said again. “Who comes?”
The herald, now completely crushed, responded, “Charles, a lowly sinner, who begs the gift of Christ” – to which the Bishop responded, “Enter! Receive Christ’s gift of life!”
The point, of course, is that in God’s eyes, we’re all equally needy.
Charlemagne, Mother Teresa, you and me. None of us will ever be “good enough” to expect that the presence of God belongs to us.
We are all equal before God, sinners in need of salvation, beggars in need of bread, strangers who were once welcomed. But are we thinking mainly about ourselves and what we can receive, here and now?
Are we more concerned about what we may or may not receive from God, than we are about what we can offer to the rest of the family of God?
I wonder how the world might change if our leaders thought more about the needs of the country than their own self-interest. I wonder how the community might change if each of us lived thinking more about the other than ourselves.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill: firstname.lastname@example.org