Much is Given, Much is Required: Real Humility

Much is Given, Much is Required: Real Humility October 31, 2008

A few days ago, I saw someone with whom I had developed a friendship several years ago. I remember being so intimidated when I first met her as she walked into the room where we had a joint meeting. This educated, articulate, poised, elegantly dressed, tall, beautiful, wearing pointy-toed high heeled shoes women entered and I thought, “We’ll never have anything in common!” Later, I discovered that she had been raised by doting well-to-do adoptive parents who had given her everything possible. Nothing like a set up for a spoiled, self-centered adult who expected the world to jump at her tiniest wish!

But she choose a different path. From her earliest memories, her parents instilled in her the words of Jesus, “To whom much has been given, much is required.” As I began to know this fascinating person, I discovered that she intentionally lives from those words. It’s didn’t take me long to discover that her actions match her beliefs and that this exquisite woman possesses a beautiful soul of genuine humility and that a spirit of generosity radiates off her.

In her humility, she doesn’t deny that she is privileged. Humility doesn’t lie or pretend something that is not true. Humility acknowledge gifts given and then figures out how to live generously as one so gifted. More, humility recognizes that the gifts will quickly become distorted if they are not given away. Someone who has been given the gift of music in voice or instrument or ability to compose lives with most humility when that gift is used to bring pleasure to others, not when it is hidden under false modestly and never displayed to the glory of God. Someone given the gifts of prosperity, whether material or social or spiritual or emotional or physical gives the greatest glory to God when that prosperity is freely passed onto others.

I suspect it must be hard for her to continue to be a giver. I also bet she is often misunderstood, just as I began this acquaintance by misunderstanding her and assuming she would use her gifts to establish a position of superiority. That misunderstanding is common simply because it is rare to see that kind of humility.

We all have heard the phrase, “the rich get richer.” The rich certainly have more possessions and seem to continue to accumulate them. But I wonder just how rich they really are. In our country and culture, we have spent a number of years seeking to consume as much as possible. Consumption–the purchasing of more and more toys, clothes, homes, cars, experiences, drugs, health care–is what actually drives our economy and serves as outward signs of being rich. If the current climate of fear coming from the financial markets integrates more fully into the American psyche, that kind of consumption is going to come to a pretty rapid halt. And when it does, what becomes of a society that has forgotten to live like my friend has? A society that is focused on what it can get for itself rather than what it can give to others simply because we have been given so much?

Every time I am around this friend, I am prompted to look at my own life and see how I can live even more generously. As people of God, we are often taught that we can and must see the face of Jesus in the poor and the impoverished and the suffering of the world. I am in complete agreement with that. Jesus knew suffering and the Scriptures are full of admonitions to care for those left out of societal comfort. I also suggest that it speaks well of us when we recognize that we are rich and privileged–even in the midst of economic crisis–and that others may be blessed when they see Jesus’ face in our actions and responses to others. It is a holy and noble calling for everyone.

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