Humility: True Perspective

By Jeffery Kingry

“When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou are bidden, go and sit in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:7-11).

When I was about 15 I bought a guitar and learned a few chords. Back in the early sixties, when folk-music was “in,” I cut quite a figure among my fellow “teenieboppers.” They even voted me “most-talented” in their innocence. It went straight to my head, and I took my $15 Stella to New York in hopes of becoming a “star!” There was a try-out at the Bitter End, a coffeehouse that “discovered” Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, & Mary. With firm confidence I strode upstairs where “other” artists were tuning, chording, and harmonizing, waiting for their chance before the spot lights. I walked around the room in wonder listening and watching. Beautiful people with beautiful voices, on finely tuned Gibsons and Martins, made beautiful music on their silver-wound guitar strings. Some could even puff on a harmonica hung before their lips by a wire contraption while singing and playing at the same time. I silently went home after enjoying the show, without having opened my $5.98 cardboard guitar case and have never regretted it. The kids back home loved my “stuff” and never knew any different.

Jesus gave us instruction on how to live, and live well, with satisfaction, happiness, and confidence. Some may think Jesus’ instructions in Luke 14 mundane and trivial. Why would the Master Teacher concern himself with the common details of our daily life? Luke 14 tells us that Jesus was interested in such things: to what homes we go, whom we have to dinner, what place in the house we take, how we act at the table (1 Cor. 10:31), what the tone of our conversation is (Matt. 12:31), what we wear (1 Pet. 3:3), whether we encourage or discourage (Matt. 10:42; 18:6).

In Luke 14 Jesus pointedly demonstrated the blessedness (happiness) of humility. The self-assertive personality is constantly ill at ease. No accomplishment of man in comparison to the whole is of much consequence. In comparison to the example of our Lord, man’s position, power, or ability becomes nothing.

True humility stems not from thinking poorly of oneself, but in having oneself in proper perspective. It is not thinking of oneself at all. A brother in Christ who held debates, wrote a great deal, and held many meetings a year was finally asked to speak on the Florida College Lectureship. After his over-long speech, several of his family and friends came to the stage to congratulate him. Amid shaking hands and smiles a young man made his way through the crowd and stretched out his hand with a small piece of paper in it. “I have been waiting for this honor for years,” he said brightly, “Can I have your autograph?” The preaching brother smilingly reached into his coat pocket for a pen as the young man walked by him to the song leader. “I have enjoyed your singing ability for years . . .” and the preacher blushed in humiliation as the two stepped away from the stage in earnest conversation. How presumptions and prideful are those who compare themselves by themselves and among others like them. When comparing our meager abilities against the real thing we come off short every time. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. “But be ye not called Rabbi, for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8).

There is no place in our Lord’s family for those who think more highly of themselves than they ought. In the politics of the world it is the vigorous, self-assertive who often pass by the humble and snatch the wilted laurel wreath of “success.” Even so, it is the godly, the becoming, the blessed thing to remain lowly minded. Leave the carnal laurels to the self-willed. A humble mind is worth striving for and possessing for its own sake. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; For theirs is the kingdom of God.”

It is a privilege to be asked to teach God’s people (Luke 4:15-20). It is presumptuous to insert oneself in a position of honor without having been asked. Preachers who ask for meetings, seek glory for their labor from men, and “seek the high places” in public have received their reward. Spiritual pride is utterly offensive to God, and draws his most serious condemnation. Everyone is pleased when the arrogant person is humiliated. But, modesty is recognized and honored by man and God. We are not much brethren, no matter how much we may think to the contrary. Lowliness of mind is a far better way of life than to possess all the honors and glory the presumptive and arrogant may commend.

Truth Magazine, XX:10, p. 13
March 4, 1976