What does humility unlock? When it comes to the Kingdom of God, having a humble heart is the first push of the domino in a long line of spiritual maturity. The last are first, and the least become greatest. How counter-cultural it must have been to hear Jesus declaring things such as turn the other cheek, give the shirt off your back, forgive completely and often.
However, even a modest scroll through any social media feed reveals how shocking putting others before self might seem to many Americans. Masks. Statues. Gatherings. We are a culture of pleasing ourselves. Humility is for the outcast. The vulnerable. The least….
That’s why Jesus insisted on it.
And it seems it isn’t to have us miss out. It actually pulls a believer deeper into a richer existence of knowing God.
To prove His point, Jesus contrasts four men in Luke 18.
First, there is the matter of two types of prayer in verses 9-14. The Pharisee focuses prayer on what he has done in light of other sinners, how his fasting and tithing makes him more righteous. On the other hand, the tax collector is repentant, recognizing his need for mercy. He can’t even look up to heaven.
Humility of self–understanding our poverty stricken state before a holy God– actually leads a person to be exalted. By God!
The tax collector’s prayer led to justification–forgiveness of sin and going home in a right relationship with a merciful God. A self righteous heart seems to distance a person not only from God’s mercy, but from other people.
Next, in verses 18-25 a ruler lets Jesus know he is deserving of eternal life because he has followed the commandments since he was a child. Jesus let him know that, even after all of this, the man’s heart was far from God. He proved it by challenging the ruler to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, then follow him. The true cost of discipleship set in on this wealthy ruler, and he became “very sad”. The rule following did not lead to a Kingdom of God mentality.
This ruler is contrasted with a blind beggar in verses 35-43. The beggar cried out repeatedly for Jesus to have mercy on him. Even after people tried to silence his voice, he publicly declared Jesus as his only hope. When his sight was restored after such a display of faith, the man followed Jesus, glorifying God, leading others to glorify God as well.
Humility gets a person in touch with God’s grace.
No well intentioned act of obedience defines us as worthy. God’s Son on a cross alone brings salvation. Grace sharpens faith. That faith brought healing into the blind man’s life. There is definitely a connection between spiritual maturity and a humble heart.
So how does humility impact a person’s life? It makes poverty stricken people wealthy. It makes lowly people exalted. It makes beggars rejoice. It opens up blind eyes to the truth that Jesus Christ is our only hope. In short, it brings a person closer to Christ. The obstacles pride puts in the way lose their power when Jesus is Lord over a person’s heart.
The Kingdom of God is not what anyone can control or expect. A religious leader and a wealthy ruler got it wrong. A beggar and a tax collector showed Kingdom of God hearts. So did the Samaritan. A woman who broke open a jar of costly ointment. And anyone who humbles themselves before God, laying aside pride. Deny self, Jesus says. Take up your cross. (Daily) Follow me.
If Jesus left heaven and took on the form of a slave, if His life sets the tempo for ours, then we should all be scrambling for deeper levels of humility–even in the midst of pandemic, social injustice, and political dissension. What godly wisdom, peace, and healing individually and corporately would be ours if we simply humbled ourselves before God?
Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Help me to willingly humble myself before You, trusting in Your Spirit to open up the blind places in me, to clean out any pride, and to make me more like You. Help me to not react as the world around me does, but to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God, the One Who holds the whole world and all its cares in the very palm of His hands.
In Jesus’ name,