My pastor began his ministry at our church by talking about the past. One of his remarks was that if there were issues in the past, it was time to build a bridge and get over them. It is great advice for people dealing with hurts in a church. (Not all hurts can be solved that way, of course.) It was however terrible advice for some ice fishermen out on Lake Erie in 2009. The weather reports indicated that ice floes could break away from the main ice section as temperatures were warming. They came across a bit of open water and built a makeshift bridge to get over it. As a result, one person died and 150 people were stranded and needed to be rescued. The Sheriff who organized the rescue was fuming. “These people should have known better,” was his response to the work their foolishness had caused.
Belshazzar was king of Babylon. He had seen his father with power so great that people dreaded him. Nebuchadnezzar did pretty much what he wanted to do without worrying about the consequences. His pride got the better of him and God humbled him in a most amazing way. Belshazzar should have known better and respected God. Instead, at a wild party he pulled out the sacred goblets from the Temple so that they could laugh at the one true God and they praised the false gods built out of wood, gold, and stone. The party was crashed by the hand of God who left a cryptic message. They called Daniel to interpret, and still didn’t get it when they talked about him having the spirit of the gods. Daniel reminded Belshazzar of his father’s trials and then told him in so many words, “You should have known better.” “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.” (Daniel 5:22)
In our culture, today, humility only seems to be a virtue for people who have reasons to be humble. We celebrate the athletes who make a big deal of themselves when they score. Many people have attacked the NFL by calling them the “No Fun League” because of the way they have cut down on the celebrations in the end zone after touchdowns. We hang on every word spoken by the famous actor or musician as they opine on subjects which they know nothing about. Their audience is based on their celebrity and rather than humbly acknowledging God’s gifts, they take glory in their position and use it to advance their own causes. Let’s face it; humility is always going to be counter-culture.
Another problem with humility is that it’s always another person who needs it. If two people are standing around talking about who needs to be humble, you can guarantee that on the list they develop, neither of their names will be on it. If another person comes along who happens to be on the list, neither of the original pair will suggest the third try humility. We should note that humility does not mean thinking less of yourself. Some people act as if putting themselves down means they are humble. Far from that. Often those self-deprecatory remarks draw attention to a person. Humility is recognizing your position with God and living under His leadership. It is using your gifts to serve the cause of Jesus Christ instead of your own cause. If I am truly honest about humility, I would have to say that I need to seek humility more in my own life. I can’t compare myself to others and rank myself on a humility scale. (Although come to think of it, I am a bit more humble than you.) See what I mean. I need to focus on God and make sure that I am living like He wants me to. I am a recipient of His grace and mercy with no reason to be anything but humble, and yet I still draw attention to myself and my “wonderful” nature.
God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I am plagued by the sin of pride that seeks to make things about me when I should know better. Let my words, thoughts, and actions point people to You and not me.