Photo Credit: basin, by Flood G., Flickr
In seasons of political posturing, humility rarely is modeled by current and aspiring politicians. But into such seasons, the hope of humility stands in stark contrast and calls for us to harness this hope for the good of our communities
In this post, let’s journey back to the time of Jesus Christ in order to explore the timeless wisdom of servant-hearted humility.
A Mother’s Request
Nearly 2000 years ago, a mother motivated by love for her boys made a request. She asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit in the places of honor at His right and left in His kingdom. As might be expected, the other ten disciples did not look favorably on this parental power play.
But Jesus harnessed the occasion as an opportunity to teach a kingdom reality: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26).
We find here a profound reality in Jesus’ teaching—humility in the form of service is at the heart of leadership in the economy of Jesus. One of my colleagues notes that at its heart, this passage is calling leaders to positions of low status and high service.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
The low status & high service motif of Jesus was not mere rhetoric, however. Jesus lived and modeled this principle. Take, for instance, one of the most powerful sermons ever—the sermon preached with a basin and a towel.
In John 13, we find Jesus at a Passover feast with His disciples. With divine audacity, Jesus rises from the meal, wraps a towel around his waist, and stoops low, with heavenly humility, as He begins to wash His disciples’ feet. We see in this amazing account the words of Jesus made alive: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus lived the kingdom principle of low status & high service.
The Hope of Humility
The timeless teaching of Jesus that modeled and called His followers to leadership marked by low status and high service stands in stark contrast the inverted high status and low service motif modeled by so many leaders in our day. What such leaders fail to realize, however, is that in the case of humble service it is not only good wisdom but also good business.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great asks, “What catapults a company from merely good to truly great?” His answer is refreshing—leaders who combine fierce resolve and humility are key.
It’s often viewed as counter-intuitive. Usually humility is associated with pushovers rather than leaders of great companies. But amazing as this is, biblical humility is just what the cultural and corporate doctors have ordered.
Harnessing the Hope of Humility
So how is the hope of humility to be harnessed? Let me offer three “prescriptions.”
Prescription 1: Be an Apprentice in the School of Humility
The first prescription is to be an apprentice in the School of Humility. Humility is by its very nature something that is learned through participation. 2 Chronicles 7:14 calls us to this apprentice-like participation: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Harnessing the hope of humility begins as a participating apprentice.
Prescription 2: Follow the Man from Galilee
In the School of Humility, our apprenticeship is under the Master Practitioner—Jesus, the servant from Galilee. When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He called them to a life-trajectory of humble service saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Following the Master Servant furthers a harnessing of the hope of humility.
Prescription 3: Go to the Grace
The final prescription is simply this: Go to the grace. In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter writes, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Do you wish to harness the hope of humility? Go to God’s graceful place of humility. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s difficult to imagine how one person’s actions of humility and service could change the course of history, but this is exactly what happened through the life of Jesus as He began to turn the world right side up. Applying these prescriptions will help us begin the process of aligning the course of our lives with His. Applying these prescriptions will help us to harness the hope of humility.