Six GROWTH practices: Go, Read, Obey, Witness, Trust, Humble Yourself
Humble Yourself Through Discipline
During the Pandemic, I would drive by a house that had a yard announcing, “I Am A Health Care Hero.” What an odd thing to boast about. Real heroes don’t brag. Certainly, front-line health providers were heroes, especially in the earlier stages of caring for Covid patients. But it’s like combat veterans whose bravery was recognized by a medal, like the Silver Star or the Medal of Honor. Many awardees discuss how uncomfortable they are for being singled out among others who fought in the same situation. Most put their medals away rather than brag about them.
So it is with humility. Humble people don’t go around bragging about how humble they are. That’s a fundamental contradiction. True humility is not something you can accomplish on your own. It is an attitude that comes from within. What you can do is work on keeping yourself humble. You can choose a discipline for that purpose.
Mother Theresa did not seek fame. It found her when American Malcolm Muggeridge discovered her and her ministry during a personal spiritual journey of his own. He featured her in his 1969 documentary Something Beautiful for God. She was always uncomfortable with the attention, which included being awarded the Nobel Prize. True saints are quite content to live in humble obscurity. It is up to others to exalt them for the purpose of inspiring others.
For Christians, the fundamental motivation is explained to the Philippians by Paul with his encouragement to imitate Christ’s humility. Jesus “gave up His equality with God and took on the lowly nature as a human. Being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death.” We do know that such humility was a struggle for Jesus because he prayed to his Father to lift the burden of dying to redeem humans. Once this task was done God exalted him to the highest place.
Jesus never exalted himself in his ministry. It was not within him to brag. He came to serve others, to lower himself, to be humble. Lowering himself was his basic Spirit-given motivation. In comparison to the bragging Pharisee, Jesus commended the tax collector who humbly asked for mercy.
The Amish describe themselves as being simple or plain. They are a community that stresses humility and resists drawing attention to individuals. That’s why they all dress in the same simple clothing that has stayed the same for two centuries. Anyone who visits an Amish community quickly learns that they don’t want anyone to photograph them. Tourists are drawn to the novelty of their reliance on horse and carriage and resistance to electrical power. Those who see them as a tourist attraction, however, miss the main point for their unusual lifestyle. They choose to live “simple” in a community committed to the spiritual discipline of humility.
Theirs is but one option to humble yourself with discipline. In his widely read Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster describes the discipline of simplicity in the way believers use our money. To follow Christ means to receive material provision gratefully, and to use money without abusing it. We are called to live with modesty and temperance in all things. This discipline means giving joyfully and generously to meet the needs of others.
My first congregation was named Brauer Lutheran Church. A hardware wholesaler, Mr. Brauer donated the dollars to establish this church in downtown St. Louis, apparently in exchange for naming rights. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. In my present church, a donor gave a million dollars and insisted on remaining anonymous. That’s the right way to live out simplicity and humility in the use of the blessing of wealth.
Of course, the fundamental way to walk humbly before God is to repent daily. To repent is to renounce what we have accomplished on our own. It means to resist bragging about what we have like the Pharisee did when reminded God of how well he fasted and contributed. It was the tax collector who repented and knew he needed mercy. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”