Text: Luke 18:9-14
What do think about when you think about humility? Do you picture a simple person, or a modest person, or a helper-behind-the scenes? Perhaps growing up your teachers and parents impressed upon you that humility meant not making a big deal about yourself, not bragging or taking up all the attention, but instead allowing others to have their turn and being helpful. This is the most common way that we think about the practice of humility. Yet Jesus taught us that humility goes further than being modest, thoughtful, and helpful. Humility is also about the way we see ourselves and the world, the way we think about others when we are getting things right and the ways we leave space for God’s grace.
We see this in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, which Jesus told to some people who believed they were good people and looked down on everyone else. In this story a Pharisee, leader of religious society, goes into the temple to pray only to spend the time exalting himself and putting others down. However, the tax collector, who was considered a public traitor, recognizes his need for God and confesses his sin honestly. Jesus commended the attitude of the tax collector, even when he had done what was wrong, and warned us not to take the attitude of the Pharisee, despite him having done good deeds. Through this story Jesus taught that lack of humility can show up in our thoughts when we start thinking that we are better than others because those others get some things wrong. We see how humility is also recognizing our need for God and leaving space for forgiveness and mercy for others in our thoughts.
We need to practice humility. We need to keep an attitude that tries to practice what we know is good without hating the people who do not do those good things. Being humble is about keeping that balance of holding on to integrity while never dismissing others who are in the midst of their own journey with God. Part of practicing humility is looking out for those signs of self-righteousness, like little thoughts that betray you have given yourself and A and everyone else an F, and countering them. If you find that the monologue in your head sounds too much like the Pharisee, return to the place that was found by the tax collector when he said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” For the place of seeing ourselves clearly, as people always in need of God’s grace, is where we find connection with God and others. May God lead you to be humble, that you may be blessed.