"Truly I say to you, unless you are turned and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18: 3
I have had a difficult time trying to capture the essence of humility on paper. It is such an illusive quality, difficult to understand, and almost impossible to define. The substance of humility eludes us because its counterfeits (self-abasement, timidity, cowardice, pride, and inferiority complex) so successfully masquerade in its place. But we must seek until we find it or we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. And we must "put it on" (Colossians 3: 12) and "...clothe ourselves with it." (1 Peter 5: 5) Look on the face of humility:
"Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us 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 so far as actually to die a criminal's death on a cross."
Philippians 2: 5-8
Humility is an attitude of the mind and heart -- a reflection in us of the willingness of Jesus to take a place lower than was rightfully His. To translate this willingness of Jesus to our own position in life is essential. This is how it works. All human beings have a God-given right to self-determination, to choose for themselves. And this right belonged to each of us. When we became Christians, however, we gave up our human right to self-rule and placed ourselves under the jurisdiction of God. We are no longer our own. We must pattern our lives after Christ and be obedient to Him. At the moment of our rebirth we surrendered our rights in this world and became the servants of God, servants of our fellow Christians, and also servants of the unsaved world. Acknowledging these facts and acting on them in everyday life is a real test of our discipleship.
Sometimes Christians mistake their becoming children of God and heirs to the kingdom as a step up in the world, not down. They expect special treatment and special consideration, and their attitude becomes one of superiority. They look around at the unsaved world with arrogance. They have not as yet grasped that the Christian is less in this world that the non-Christian. He has become less by his own choice. Although a Christian is a child of God, he must not grasp at this but become a slave of God and a servant of all. He no longer has any rights in this world. Listen to the words of humility:
"Jesus said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'"
Matthew 20: 25-28
We have defined humility as an attitude of the mind and heart -- the willingness to take a lower place than is rightfully ours. The next step is to translate this idea into action in our daily lives and relationships. I want to share with you now, how I began in my life and the many things I learned as a result.
I began by formulating certain actions and reactions to guide my behavior.
1. Do not answer back when insulted.
2. Do not get even or take revenge.
3. Do not criticize and speak evil of others even when they wrong you.
4. Present yourself defenseless before the world. Let the world treat you as it will. Do not fight back verbally or physically.
5. When situations arise do not judge the event, placing fault at anyone's doorstep.
6. Do good to all men. Pray for those who spitefully use you.
7. If someone attacks you, do not provoke or harass them to further violence. Avoid sarcasm, name-calling, gloating and other subtle ways you can use to commit violence verbally.
I used the following Scriptures as the basis for the above list:
"...and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously."
1 Peter 2: 22, 23
"Don't criticize and speak evil about each other. If you do, you will be fighting against God's law of loving one another, declaring it is wrong. But your job is not to decide whether this law is right or wrong, but to obey it. Only He who made the law can rightly judge among us. He alone decides to save us or destroy. So what right do you have to judge or criticize others?"
James 4: 11, 12
"Do not resist the evil man."
Matthew 5: 39
"Do not harass or provoke the sons of men (Ammon)."
Deuteronomy 2: 19
I began to put these ideas into practice when I was working as a waitress. During that time I had many difficult, painful, and interesting experiences. Now as I write them down for you, reader, they sound petty and small. I record them only that you might see that when I presented myself defenseless before the world, God moved in my everyday encounters and was my shield and defender as He promised He would be.
The following events and later happenings best speak for themselves. They are a sampling of what happened to me in a six-month period.
The manager's young wife was angry with me because I couldn't work two consecutive shifts so she harassed me.
She dropped a tray of full soup containers.
Two young cooks called me obscene names without cause.
One cut his thumb severely. The other had a motorcycle accident.
I made a special request to my boss to receive my check on time. He promised to make it possible. Later he just ignored it.
On payday his car was stolen.
Twice the hostess involved me in her personal grievances when I was only an innocent bystander, claiming that I was her accomplice.
She had a heart attack.
I was fired.
Two months later the person who fired me was fired.
There is one more Scripture to consider and it is perhaps the most difficult of all to handle, for when you see God acting so tremendously in your life to defend you, you might get an exaggerated opinion of your importance.
"Do not rejoice when your enemy meets trouble. Let there be no gladness when he falls -- for the Lord may be displeased with you and stop punishing him."
Proverbs 24: 17
Maude's line, "God will get you for this" is the height of vanity. Never joke about such a serious thing. Such an attitude can have no latitude in the Christian.
God acts as He chooses to act. And that, only. When you present yourself in an attitude of humility and defenselessness He will judge those who harm you. But it is because He is doing what He said He would do. Read Psalm 94. I shudder here because I might give the wrong impression. When God judges those who harm you He is being true to His word -- not because you are anyone so great. If you conclude His actions on your behalf are the result of your importance, you are again engulfed in vanity. Only this time your sin is greater because you have imagined that God is your personal avenger. All I have been describing is a spiritual law -- if you present yourself defenseless, God will defend you. If you defend yourself He will not come to your aid.
Many times I failed to act like Jesus did. And this is still true. But I keep trying. One more thing. Sometimes I wronged others and then God's judgment fell on me. I could not ask that it be otherwise.
From my experiences I learned some realities about the kingdom of God. This kingdom has areas of authority (territories), just like any earthly kingdom or state. The Christian must recognize and understand the boundaries of the king's authority and not trespass.
This is the way I describe it: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity -- except for one thing. And that one thing is humility. And humility is:
1. Waiting for God, not trespassing in His areas of authority.
Vengeance (Psalm 94; Hebrews 10: 30)
Judgment (James 4: 11, 12)
Defense and protection of citizens of the kingdom (Psalm 91; Psalm 27: 1-3)
Deliverance (Psalm 91; Psalm 34: 7)
Decision-making as to all events in the kingdom and the lives of its citizens (Proverbs 3: 5, 6; Isaiah 30: 1)
2. Not trespassing in the territory of another person even if he has invaded mine.
Invasion tactics: anger, criticism, sarcasm, arrogance, retaliation, gossip, provoking, exerting emotional pressure such as crying, nagging, pouting, etc.
3. Not protecting my own territory if someone insists on entering.
I finally understood why humility is an entrance requirement for the kingdom of God. I had been trampling where angels fear to tread. Whether I did this in ignorance or arrogance is irrelevant. There is no valid excuse. I had been trying to take the kingdom of heaven by force.
And now for the bottom line: When we became Christians we gave up our God-given human right to self-determination. When we became Christians we gave up our right to defend ourselves in the world of men but gained a new right to be defended by God. But if we follow Jesus all the way we will now take another step down, giving up this newly acquired right also because our Savior did. When Jesus was taken in the garden by the soldiers He could have asked God to judge them. But He didn't. Instead he asked God to forgive them. How can we do less?
In our present day, people everywhere are demanding their rights. God asks the Christian to give all his rights away.
I wish now that I might live again those days as a waitress, knowing what I know now. I wish I had asked God to forgive them. I can't undo that now but there are many days yet ahead of me with new events and relationships. That I may be like Jesus is my prayer.