By Not Known
The one-time world champion boxer Muhammad Ali (1942- ) was not the only person in history to declare himself to be “the greatest”. Neither was he the first nor will he be the last to display such crass human megalomania.
Even drunken with such swell-headedness, many of us would be careful to hide ourselves behind some form of self-depreciation or false modesty. Not Ali. He was far more candid us he gave us that immortalised one-liner: “When you are as great as I am it is hard to be humble.” For some time of course, the whole world loudly laughed with him before it finally turns its back on Ali as Parkinson’s disease brought him down.
Yet we know from Jesus’ word (Mt 18:3-4) that God’s value system for His people has always been the reverse. Time and again when the disciples argued who should be the greatest, Jesus would instead point the way of childlike obedience to God in sacrifice to Him alone, serving one another in love and lowliness. He taught by example as He took upon Himself the job of the lowest of slaves and washed His disciples’ feet (Jn 13:1-17). Then reiterating that ultimate lesson of humble sacrifice, the Lord of heaven and earth willingly became vulnerably human, laying down His life humiliatingly upon the Cross − the perfectly sinless for the perpetually sinful − so as to redeem us for the Father − His and ours (1 Pet 3:18 NASB).
Indeed understanding this part of the theology is not a problem. Everything we are, we owe and we have, comes from God and belongs to Him. Yet, we often act as if we are doing God a favour by offering ourselves to Him. We often see ourselves as God’s indispensable gifts to His people and behave as prima donnas to be served and fretted upon by those we are supposedly to serve. We even try to make idols of ourselves as we build little personality cults around us as we mantra-like offer lip-service to the truth of “God is God and we are not”. Such is the frailty and deceitfulness of our sinful human heart that needs God’s word and Spirit to expose from time to time.
Humility is not self-depreciation. Nor is it false modesty. True humility is recognising and acknowledging who God is and what He has done; and who we are and the nothing that we have accomplished. True service to Him and His people would then overflow from hearts deeply grateful and appreciative as we enthrone Him anew as the King of all, offering to Him the praise and glory that He alone deserves. And let God be God, because we are not.