Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Fedderson (he added this note to this week’s devotion: “Thank you Rev. Mark Schroeder for filling in for me.”)
One of the hardest lessons to learn is the lesson that humility pays. Try it sometime. Live a humble life. I’m not talking about false humility or superficial humility or short-term humility. I’m talking about humility that is expressed in behavior that says to others that they are better than you.
This requires rigid discipline. You will need to listen more than talk. You will need to affirm more than correct. You will need to be amazed at the ideas of others without communicating your own creative ideas. You will need to push others forward at the expense of your own upward mobility. This will only happen with steadfast discipline.
The reactions you will receive will be interesting. Most of the time, people will treat you as if you are unimportant. You will be ignored while other people will get the attention you crave. You will be forgotten while others will be put in the spotlight. You will be stuck with mundane responsibilities while others will seem to get the more “prestigious” responsibilities and opportunities. However, the most significant reaction will be your own. If you are like most people, you will find that it is very painful to receive that kind of treatment. It will be like the worst withdrawal from the most evil addiction. This is why humble living is a rarity these days. It doesn’t seem to pay.
Humble living does pay however. It pays for a number of reasons. First, a humble lifestyle is indicative of an honest evaluation of one’s self. The Romans text for this week is a classic example of our true nature. We are by nature humble. Our behavior can engender nothing but humility. We are prone to sin and we do sin. There is nothing to be proud about in the behavior department. Before God we are humble creatures enslaved in our own rebellion. Those who, like Paul, acknowledge this sinfulness are being honest with themselves. This honesty breeds an appropriate response to this sinful character. It drives a person to find a genuine solution to the problem of sin. This is healthy and leads to joy.
Second, humble living pays because in God’s kingdom a humble person receives preferential treatment. Jesus reveals this truth in the Gospel lesson for this week. The preferential treatment that God gives to “little children”-that is, humble ones by nature-is rest from sin. This is the solution to the chronic problem of sin mentioned above.
Finally, humble living pays because in God’s kingdom the King himself has chosen to honor the character of humility by wearing it himself. Zechariah 9:9-12 reveals this fact. This means those who adopt the character of humility find themselves in alignment with the preferences of that King. Those in alignment with him will ultimately find peace.
Well, I could go on and on with the ways that humble living pays. But coming up with a list of benefits is not the real problem. The problem ultimately is an inability to be humble. In your natural condition, you aren’t honest with yourself concerning your sin. Therefore you don’t seek God and his preferential treatment for you. And finally, you could care less about the kind of character the King of God’s kingdom has chosen to wear because you could care less about that king. You’ve chosen instead to arrogantly assume that you can be king of your reality, that you can make decisions about what kind of character to wear and that the only thing you need from others-including God-is for them to carry out your will. The saddest fact about all of this is that you are enslaved to this kind of lifestyle and if unchecked will bring you to the destruction you deserve.
Your only hope is Christ. He is the only one who can help you live humbly. He proved he knows what humility is when he went to a cross approximately 2000 years ago. He did this because he humbly accepted your load of sin and honestly accepted the guilt of it. He did this because He wanted you to receive preferential treatment from the Father even though it meant that he receive the proper treatment for your rebellion from the Father. He did it so that he could strip away your arrogant behavior and replace it with his character of humility to wear as the uniform of the kingdom. Jesus did all this at the cross. After three days, he then rose again to take all of these benefits and apply them to your life the moment you were baptized.
This means that you can give humble living a try. So give it a try. If you have trouble talking too much, try listening more. If you have trouble correcting too much, try affirming. If you have trouble criticizing other’s ideas, praise those ideas for a change. Rely on Jesus to help you do this. This is living by faith. Of course, this means that you may end up ignored, forgotten, in the shadows, behind the scenes carrying out mundane responsibilities. But that is okay because you are none of these in reality. In reality, you are a chosen, cleansed and honored member of God’s family and his kingdom. Besides this, what else could you want? Be humble, you’ve got nothing to lose.