While preparing for my Wednesday night Bible study in Exodus chapter 10 this week, I was frozen by the words of Moses to Pharaoh. I just couldn’t get past them and it seemed as if Moses were speaking directly to me. Exodus 10:3 says:
“Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?”
How long indeed.
Humility and the lack thereof can be attributed to two prominent, and somewhat inter-related, poisons in the life of Christians: Our own depravity and the influence of secular humanism. I will briefly address both.
Humility is the archenemy of pride. Ever since the fall as recorded in Genesis 3, an act that was itself motivated by prideful ambitions (to be like God), humanity has struggled with an ongoing conflict between humbling ourselves before God and wanting to be Him, usually by puffing ourselves up before man. It even predates the fall. Lucifer himself decided that being God was much better than being an angel and because of his prideful attitude, he rebelled. Virtually every encounter with sin we find in the Bible can at some level be attributed to pride. The people in Noah’s day “did what was right in their own eyes.” The folks at Babel were more concerned with their own ambitions than the things which were pleasing to God, completely defying the Creation Mandate in order to “make a name for themselves.” A majority of the struggle between King Saul and King David was prideful jealousy on the part of Saul as he heard the ringing in his hears, “David has killed his tens of thousands.” And so forth.
Humility does not come natural to Christians today anymore than it did to believers living in biblical times. James and John wanted to be first in the Kingdom; Jesus responds by saying in order to be first, you must become last. We want to be first in the kingdom today as well, a desire that might not be inherently sinful, but that more often than not leads to sinful actions. Making ourselves last in order to become first has never and will never be a natural inclination for Christians, which is why our Lord has commanded that we “die to self” every single day of our life. To quote the great theologian Dave Mustaine (the lead singer of Megadeath), I have to “wake up dead” in order to truly be alive.
Second, humility is another reason why Christians, and especially parents, must embrace and teach only a biblical worldview as opposed to the secular understanding of a “healthy self.” For secular society, it is all about you. Not that humble actions, good deeds or sacrificial giving are bad things in the eyes of secularism, but the thesis statement for a world unconcerned with the things of God will always default to self. Unfortunately, this is also taking hold in a section of Christianity where pastors and teachers are preaching a “false gospel” of self. I was just reading a fairly complicated piece by a Christian theologian making a defense for pluralism (the belief that all religions are equal and valid) that arrived at a jaw-dropping conclusion:
“In so far as anyone, female or male, lacks the ego-development and fulfillment necessary for a voluntary self-transcendence, the prior achievement of self-fulfilled ego may well be necessary for a true relationship with the Real.” *
The pounding of the secular worldview is making a dramatic impact even on the forming of soteriology in the minds of theologians and pastors. In case you had trouble following the above quote, this gentleman is suggesting that for many people, the path to salvation must be trodden by a removal of self-denial with a replacement of ego-driven self-fulfillment. But this message is not limited simply to the intellectual writings of a renowned theologian. They are much more accessible to the “common layperson.” Some of the most popular and widely-respected pastors today preach the message of self. Their popularity is, in part, due to the fine if not invisible line separating their approach to Scripture from what a secular humanist might offer. It is easy to listen to them preach because a majority of their message falls right in line with our fallen tendencies. It is akin to the person who goes seeking advice until he finally finds the one person who agrees with him. Such an approach is not truly seeking and finding what is right, it is rather seeking confirmation.
So why did the Exodus passage cut me and make me bleed? For a few reasons.
1. Humility must be present even when you are right and they are wrong. Being right does not disqualify anyone from being humble before the other person. It is easy for pride to make us hold our head down when passing someone in the hall because of prior relational issues. It is easy for pride to make us feel better and more esteemed than the other person. But humility reminds us that we are a servant to all, even to those who might be way off base.
2. Humility must be present to remind us that we might be wrong and they are right. Pretty simple. Unless we are humble, we will never unveil our own errors in thinking and in actions.
3. Humility must be present to please God. Our God will lift us up when we are humble (1 Peter 5:6). It brings us back to the Pharisaical problem; do we seek the reward of man or of God? If man, then humility won’t work. If God, then humility is the only option.
I need help in all three of those areas. I am not a mind-reader or a prophet, but I would guess you do to. Humility isn’t an option for a Christian. Pray to be enlightened as to the places in your life where humility is needed. Then pray for help. And be humble.
(one of my favorite, and very readable, books on humility is by C.J. Mahaney simply called Humility: True Greatness). Click Here to purchase the book.
I also recommend the book “Health, Wealth, and Happiness” to help Christians work through the teaching and theology of pastors like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Ken Copeland. The book is very fair to them, but also points out problems. Click Here to purchase this book.
*John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 52.