Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I took a look at the topic of humility, or meekness as it’s sometimes called. Now, I want to have a look at Jesus, who is known for his humility. In our society today, we tend to scorn the idea of humility. It’s equated with failure If someone says, He’s a humble person, it can mistakenly mean, He’s a weak person.
We live in a time when might is right—we admire those who seem to be self-sufficient, and don’t need anyone. Humility has had a lot of bad press as a virtue. It’s seen as grovelling and a sign of weakness. But not so with Jesus. He was not weak or spineless.
Listen to what Jesus said: “The one who is least among you all is the greatest” (Luke 9:48). He turned the teaching of his day on its head. On another day he said, “I tell you the truth. Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). Here are pictures of simplicity, acceptance, and lack of arrogance.
Think for a moment how Jesus showed humility. God, his Father, chose the humblest of circumstances for his birth. He was born of Mary and Joseph, two average people with nothing outstanding to boast. They didn’t have great social standing. They had to find room to stay the night so Mary could give birth, as there was no room for them in Bethlehem.
As a man, Jesus called people to follow him. They were ordinary people without much in the way of social status either. He could have embarked on his mission alone, but instead he called a team of ordinary people around him and concentrated on teaching and equipping them. He told them he was among them as one who would serve them, not to be served.
What kind of leader today would say that? In Philippians 2 we read this:
Your attitude should be the kind that was shown by Jesus Christ who though He was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going as far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 – TLB).
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A Servant Attitude
A slave had no rights. He was a ‘thing’ with no privileges, and Jesus stepped down into that position. Remarkable, isn’t it? He accepted hospitality from people throughout his life, and relied on the support of three disciples in particular.
Listen to what he often told them: “Everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). The irony of all this is that Jesus, the Son of the most High God, could have come as a King and ruler, demanding his place in the world, with honour and adoration of people. But he turned our idea of greatness on its head.
Here’s what Jesus said: “I seek not to please myself but Him who sent Me. I have come down from Heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me… My teaching is not my own”. He took a lower place in order to give God all the glory. Jesus did become a servant and said to his followers, “Those who want to be great among you must be your servants”. God created us in his image, and we are to be his servants, and a servant is a humble person. Jesus came into our world to introduce humility. He was humility incarnate.
We read that one night at the Passover Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with a towel. Peter had some difficulty with this experience. So Jesus said, “If I then have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example. A servant is not greater than his master” (John 13). Foot washing was an act of humility, an act of service. We may not understand a lot about it today although it is practised in some churches, but its truth is still very powerful.
If we are to follow Jesus, we must take seriously this business of humility. Humility is actually a powerful and beautiful thing, because it strips away everything that props up our ego—social status, wealth, and pride.
We can come before Jesus humbly because we know he loves us and sees us as honoured guests. But without him we are nothing. We have so much to learn. Let’s try looking at Jesus rather than our sense of self-importance.