The fruit of humility, part 2
We stopped last time in the middle of a passage I was presenting from Micah, chapter 6. I stopped after verse 7, so I will repeat the verses and then continue.
Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Of all the things that could have been listed here as requirements for man, God chose to emphasize only three, and one of them is humility before God. Do you think God is suggesting that humility is important?
Obviously! Yet I daresay that humility is probably not on the list of daily goals for most of us, is it? Why is it so hard for us to seek humility? The answer? Because we are proud! It goes against that most basic and fundamental of all sins: the pride of self. Humility means recognizing that someone else is in control. And that is Someone with a capital “S,” the Lord God Almighty.
Humility is a requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. We know that attaining to the high calling of being an overcomer qualifies one for rulership in the kingdom of heaven. But it seems that the Bible also teaches that—leaving overcomership aside—just getting into heaven as an ordinary Christian will require humility.
Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
First, let’s notice their question. They did not ask Jesus about the requirements for getting into the kingdom, but rather about being the greatest in the kingdom. But how does Jesus answer them?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus does not immediately answer their question about being the greatest. First, He simply sets forth a couple of requirements for even entering the kingdom. We can all agree that being converted is a requirement for entering the kingdom, but what is this additional requirement about becoming like little children? Well, I think the meaning becomes clear as Jesus then goes on in verse 4 to actually answer the specific issue about being the greatest.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
It seems obvious that the quality about becoming as little children in verse 3 just to enter the kingdom is the same quality referred to in verse 4 about being greatest in the kingdom. Everywhere in the world, in every society and in every era, it is a fact that children are of lower station than are adults. That makes them humble by comparison.
This doesn’t mean that every single child is a saintly example of humility. Some kids are just plain, snot-nosed brats, usually due to a lack of discipline from their parents. The point Jesus was making about being humble as a child was obviously speaking of children as a class or group being humble in relation to a group of adults. Children are of a lower station in society. In that sense, they are humble.
One can also make a case, of course, that many children exhibit true humility in the sense that they are docile; they are teachable; they are eager and ready to learn. They are not proud by thinking that they know it all. They recognize their lack and they desire to sit at the feet of an adult to learn.
When we become adults, some of us lose that teachable spirit, that humble childlike quality, and we become too proud to learn anything from anybody. “I’m just going to let the Lord teach me.” Have you ever heard that?
Humility is required to just get in the door to the kingdom of heaven; how much more so then must it be a prerequisite and a preeminent character trait of those who are to rule in the kingdom. The words of Jesus are equally clear about this.
Remember in Mark 10, beginning somewhere about verse 35 where the Boanerges Brothers, the Sons of Thunder, James and John, tried to get Jesus to promise them the #1 and #2 slots in the hierarchy in the kingdom, and in verse 41, it relates how this request rather upset the other ten apostles, so Jesus took time to explain to all of them that the way to the top is through the bottom. The way up is down.
Mark 10:42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
Now just as a point of clarification here, the word minister in verse 43 does not mean that if you want to be great, you have to be a minister in the sense of a full-time preacher, evangelist, etc. A minister simply means one who serves another.
In America we call our high cabinet officials by the title of Secretary. We have a Secretary of State, Defense, Treasury, etc. But in Great Britain and many other nations, they use the term Minister, and the very greatest and highest servant of all is called the Prime Minister.
So it does not matter what your occupation or station in life is, we all have opportunities to minister to others every day. Parents minister to their children; children can minister to their parents to their level of ability. Preschoolers can help mommy pick up the toys. As they get older, children can and should minister to their parents and their siblings in a greater way as perhaps they prepare the meal or clean up the kitchen after a meal.
Grown children can and certainly ought to minister to the needs of their aging parents when necessary. The methods of ministry are as varied as the activities of life. Everyone can minister to others. This is Christian service. This is love with its handmaiden of humility.
And this thought occurs to me, a note for young people, especially; although it is applicable to any Christian, and that is this: Do not think that God is calling you to go off and do some great missionary activity, whether here in America or abroad, if you cannot or have not already demonstrated your ability and willingness to serve in the most humble of duties right where you are. You could say we should blossom where we are planted first.
We have seen how the virtue of humility is a requirement for entry into the kingdom of heaven. And we have seen how it is even more so a requirement for rulers in the kingdom, for those who would be overcomers. Next, we will examine the rewards of humility. (To be continued.)