True Humility – Br. Jonathan Maury
Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29; Psalm 94:14-19; Luke 14:1, 7-11
Just a few minutes ago, the prayers, thoughts and desires—individually and corporately—which we bring to the Lord’s Table today were ‘collected’ with these words: “…increase in us the gifts of faith, hope and charity…make us love what you command” (Collect for Proper 25, BCP 1979).
The portion of Luke’s gospel proclaimed today tells of one of several incidents remembered on an occasion when Jesus went to a house of a leader of Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath. We are also told, “…they were watching him closely.” The context of this observation would suggest a kind of surveillance with less than charitable intent toward Jesus, and not a few presuppositions and already-formed opinions about him. Jesus, we are told, is observing, taking notice of the behavior of the guests, as they jockey for places of honor at the banquet.
Aware that he is being ‘watched’, Jesus casts his observations in the form of a parable analogy about those invited to a marriage feast. His story is one of a reversal of fortune: guests at the feast who take places of honor are removed from them in shame, while those who take the lowest places are invited by their host to come up higher. Jesus alludes to the teaching of Proverbs (25:6-7), certainly known to his hearers, which says, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” Jesus’ expresses the point of his parable in a saying about humility: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus’ teaching here plays on the difference between two understandings of what is meant by ‘humility’. The first, probably most commonly held definition equates ‘humility’ the experience of ‘being humbled’. We are humbled by the unpleasant embarrassment or shame associated with a wound to our pride, the popping, by the realities of social interaction, of the illusory bubble which our overinflated self-opinion has become.
By contrast, the humility of which Jesus speaks, and which he models, is that of “down to earth-ness”, of living with a conscious connection to the humus from which God fashioned humanity. Those who humble themselves are aware of their “creaturely-ness.” Rejoicing in the gift of being bestowed on them by God, such persons are freed from a cycle of constant self-preoccupation, which usually masks a low-self opinion. Such humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Humble self-knowledge means seeing ourselves and others as God sees us. True humility delights in learning to love ourselves and others as God loves us.
We are invited to embrace the humility of Christ, to ask for the gifts of faith, hope, and charity of which we truly have need this day and with which our God so lovingly desires to shower us. These are the things which God commands—and God wills for us to receive with the same truthfully humble love with which they are freely and lovingly given.
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“ask for the gifts of faith, hope and charity of which we truly have need this day and with which our God so lovingly desires to shower us.” This reminds me of James admonition that we “receive not for we ask amiss”. True humility knows of what one truly has need of. Without God’s grace daily to guide me I will invariably ask for the wrong things, and resting in His grace I’m able to trust Him to supply that for which I’m so needy of. Thank you for this simple, profound message.
Humility is what makes the powerful accessible to the powerless. The Rule of Benedict
And from Oswald Chambers:
We have to be broken bread and poured out wine.
Grateful to you for such an inspired but simple message.
I wasn’t aware that humbles self-knowledge is seeing ourselves and others as God sees us. Certainly self-knowledge – talents, skills, limitations – is part of the Jewish understanding of humility, but seeing ourselves and others as God see us? I thought this would be part of teoria and putting on the mind of Christ. Humility as you rightly identify has to do with being human, from the earth, created from and walking on the ground. We are not to inflate ourselves our sense of self-worth so that we set ourselves up in opposition to God or play God.
Beautiful message. Helping others helps us all move away from self preoccupation! This is a beautiful message. God bless you for it.
Dear Br Jonathan, thank you for the reminder about self-preoccupation covering up low self-esteem. This is going to help me get a better handle on my spiritual development.
This devotional brought these words of wisdom from OSWALD CHAMBERS to mind:
To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him.”
Each day life is a bigger handful than I can cope with. This is why I love this word!
Thank you, Jeanne. I strive to be self-reliant, not asking for help for tough, heavy work. Friends and family “fuss” at me. I’m trying.
But i like this bigger picture you bring from Oswald Chambers: i needn’t try to handle life’s problems alone. I can always call on our biggest supporter: Jesus. I will, with God’s help.
This is so helpful to me. I always think the worst of myself in comparison to others – I always think others think the worst of me. Maybe I should stop being so narcissistic and pre-occupied with myself and look outwards at what I can truly do and be FOR others. Thank you Brother. Elizabeth Hardy+
Thank you Brother Jonathan, for the many keys within this writing ~ keys to unlock the doors of self pre-occupation and set me, the prisoner free. What grace
it would be if the fruits of this meditation might flow toward a wider river of understanding ~ possibly
a retreat to enter in to and live out of the Prayer of Humble Access /
This summer, mother nature has been our teacher. The birds, coupled with the wind, gave us a wondrous gift of seeding sunflowers in a stone crevice where no human hand might plant. UP UP Up they arose until, arriving at the fulness of their growth, about 6 feet. And for the following month the plant produced 18 sunflowers, one after another opening its face of glowing gold. If G d can raise up sunflowers where, by all human thought, none should grow, what might Divine Energy kindle when we become radically open in humility to Love’s transforming action within? What are the sunflowers that the Divine wants to seed and flower forth through each of us for G d’s creative purposing – sunflowers that will only grow in a soil made light, open and receptive to the Life~inspiriting spark of G d? Sharing the joyful
surprise of Mother Nature’s revelation!
Dear Br. Jonathan, this is truly the message of the gospels. Thank you! Just today I heard a prominent public person make fun of the ways of the poor comparing them unfavorably to the rich. I was glad that the remark was condemned for what was said. The press jumped on it.
I liked your statement, “True humility delights in learning to love ourselves and others as God loves us.”
Dear Brother in Christ,
Thank you for these encouraging words particularly in this political season where humility and truth seem to less and less obvious. They are Christian values to which we cling and only can pray that others will as well. Blessings on your day.
Brother Jonathan, what a pleasure to read your inspiration. Although it has been awhile since being at Emory House, your spiritual direction during that time blessed and continually blesses me. I hope for a visit again …
Roderic, I think we don’t have to worry about “the right place” so much as to offer our talents with a grateful heart, grateful to have talents to offer at all. God will see to the rest. I think that’s what Br. Jonathan is telling us ; just do what you can where and when you can.
Dear Polly: The only thing is that we have to be able to recognize that we have talents. Perhaps, over the years, we have never come to recognize that. A miracle may come along to wake us up to who we really are. Blessings. Christina
Once Again, I appear commenting on this meditation. I think it is great to know oneself. How can we know how we ought to make the offering of ourselves, our souls and our bodies to be a reasonable holy…. sacrifice. How do we know when our talents are being offered in the world in the right place?
I need to work so hard on all of this. How do we know how others see us? How can I view myself as I ought? I’m sure my self-occupation is sinful. How does one get it right? Whom other than me can change the way I think?
Thank you Br Jonathan! Your message was just what I needed to hear today! Beautifully put!
I once read that humility is being in right relationship with God.
Right On Jonathan.
Simple, clear, and brief. Thank you.
Dear Br. Jonathan,
Thank you for your helpful words. By habit I’ve looked for the Christ in others, their strengths and goodness. But, to see myself and others as God sees us, is much more embracing as it takes in both our strengths and our limitations, a more expanded and realistic way of perceiving.
Dear Brother Jonathan, thank you for the beautiful simplicity and depth of your meditation on a topic that is often treated with confusing complexity.