This past Wednesday, our Book Club read two articles published in the NY Times on the subject of humility. One of the pieces was from the opinion section of the publication. This article was written by a seminary professor who emphasized that humility is a foundational trait for Christians. The professor cited scripture in support of his argument.
Jesus was humble, and scripture reminds us that God lived among humans. An act of astonishing humility by itself. But Jesus did not live like a king or even among the middle class. Jesus lived a life of austerity. And Jesus submitted Himself to treatment as a common criminal, publicly humiliated, falsely accused, and executed. Jesus set a standard for humility that none of us can quite reach.
There is no shortage of emphasis on humility in scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that whoever makes themself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves will be made great (Matthew 23:12). Earlier in this same Gospel, when Jesus is teaching a large crowd from the side of a hill, Jesus begins His teaching, stating that the humble are blessed because they will receive that which God has promised (Matthew 5:5). I suspect that without humility, it may not be possible to receive the blessings that God wants for us.
Perhaps the most compelling illustration of humility found in scripture is in the Gospel of John. Jesus is with His followers on the night that He anticipates His arrest. Instead of ranting about how unjust the world is and plotting to get out of town, Jesus washes everyone’s feet. Even those whom He knows can’t be trusted. It was a great teaching moment on the subject of humility (John 13:4-17).
In last week’s article, Mirrors, I wrote about the importance of reflecting Jesus. It is not who we see in the mirror, but who we try to mirror that counts. This goal puts humility as a way of life for all who claim to be faithful to Christ. To be boastful, arrogant, or self-absorbed, while claiming to be a follower, is to be an imposter. Yet we all fall into this mode from time to time.
Two weeks ago, our theme reminded us that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what we do with our bodies matters. Anything that harms our bodies is an offense to God. Our bodies belong to God. We are simply caretakers.
Mirroring Jesus leads us to both realizing that what we do with our bodies matters, and to receive the power to do something about it. But this promise is a non-starter without humility. We must first recognize that we are not capable of doing what we know we should do. Nor are we capable of not doing what we should not do. Our humility turns us towards God as the source of the power that we need. Left on our own, we will fail every time.
Most of us don’t view ourselves as arrogant. And I suspect that most of us believe that we have a healthy degree of humility. But when we try to mirror Jesus on our own, after learning from scripture that this is not possible, isn’t this an example of arrogance? Scripture tells us that Jesus emptied Himself, giving up His will for God’s will. And He was obedient even when obedience would lead to His execution. This example of humility is powerful.
The second article that we read and discussed in Book Club is by a science reporter and author of books on science. The article cited research that has been completed by Psychologists that looks into humility as a trait. The study shows that only a rather small percentage of people are genuinely humble — between 10 and 15 percent.
I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.
Psychologists are looking into the mental health benefits of humility. Perhaps in the future, your therapist may be quizzing you on your humility and prescribing exercises to help you become more humble, as a prescription to improve your mental health. Research by Elizabeth Krumrei Mancuso of Pepperdine University showed that humility is strongly linked to curiosity, reflection, and open-mindedness. Research has also shown that humble people are less aggressive and less judgmental toward members of other religious groups, particularly after being challenged about their religious views.
In our current series, Food as medicine, we turn to scripture for advice on how what we do with our bodies matters to God and our health. Our health matters to God. Our bodies matter to God. And it is no secret that most of us are not very good stewards of our bodies. So our willingness to be humble matters because when we believe that we know better than God, our arrogance gets in the way of our well-being.
One of our core strategic goals at Asbury is to be a center for health and wellness. What we do with our bodies is fundamental to our health. Prescriptions that doctors write for patients are frequently as a result of not taking proper care of their body. And a big part, perhaps the most critical part of a prescription that is critical for life, is our spiritual development.
Health and wellness are not possible without a spiritual life. So we gather each Sunday for worship. Worship is critical for our health and well-being. Our third strategic goal for Asbury is to be a center of connections. Like our spiritual lives, our relationships matter.
Humble people are less aggressive and less judgmental toward members of other religious groups, particularly after being challenged about their religious views.
To learn even more about humility and how it affects your health and well-being, be sure to join us on Sunday. If you are interested in learning more about humility there are lots of articles in addition to those cited here.
But the most important decision of all is the one that leads you to look to Jesus Christ for who God created you to be. Remember, while we look into the mirror to see ourselves, it is not what we see in the mirror that really matters. It is the One who we try to mirror that makes all the difference.
We worship each Sunday at 10:30 am. I believe that God is calling you to join us. Come and participate in worship, not as a spectator, but as someone who belongs to God. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
Be Humble, and Proudly, Psychologists Say. Benedict Carey. NY Times. Oct. 21, 2019.
The Quiet Power of Humility. Peter Wehner. NY Times. April 15, 2017.