This reflection is part of a larger weekly lectionary study, called Heretic’s Guide to the Bible. Click the link or the banners above or below to learn more.
Amy once offered a sermon on humility at our former Church in Colorado. One guy, who I’ll call Hector, always had something interesting to say in response to the sermon, but this week was a chart-topper. And although it was one of the funnier moments I can remember in my time in ministry (I still have bite marks on my lip from the experience…self control ain’t easy for me), it was pretty obvious from his comments that he didn’t get it.
“That was a really good message today,” Hector nodded, shaking Amy’s hand. “I always like hearing about how humble we’re supposed to be in our Christian walk.” Then he took a deep, thoughtful breath. “Personally,” he said, “I’m a pretty humble guy. I’m actually much more humble than I tend to give myself credit for.”
Oh, how many times I have longed to have that phrase printed on a T-shirt! But for some reason, Amy won’t let me.
But the reason Hector’s comments were so funny wasn’t just because he kind of missed the whole point, or because his celebration of his own humility was so richly ironic. It was funny, at least to me, because he was actually the most honest person in the room that morning. After all, most of us would like to think of ourselves as ironic, and if we’re telling the truth, we’d love to be recognized for that humble disposition.
Part of the appeal of someone like Mother Theresa isn’t that she lived in squalor with the untouchables of Calcutta for decades, but rather that she’s been elevated to sainthood for it. Who doesn’t want to be a saint? Who wouldn’t love to have statues of themselves in front of the great cathedrals of the world, or in the parks of every big city? Maybe if we present our humility in just the right place and time, we’ll finally get the credit we deserve. We’ll get elevated to the spot where we know we actually belong.
Hold the phone, says Jesus. If there’s any ulterior motive behind our acts of humble faithfulness, then it’s not actually humility or faithfulness. It’s self-serving, which is counter to the fundamental message of the Gospel:
It’s not all about you; get over yourself.