Well this is week 2 of a 2 week series I’ve entitled ‘Humble Pie’, talking about Humility.
There’s a consistent thread throughout the entirety of scripture which is this: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Ephemeral Fly Last week we went through the story of the ephemeral fly. The premise basically, is you have this aged, ailing old fly, who’s giving advice and counsel about life to his grandchildren. And it sounds like he’s had all these great and diverse experiences. Until you get to the end of the story, and the conceit is this kind of fly only lives for 24 hours.
And in his own eyes, he’s so wise, even though, in reality, he was born earlier this morning. For our perspective, you can only learn so much in 24 hours.
And I hope you can see yourself in that story. That we as humans can live to 100 if we’re extremely fortunate, and though that seems like a long time to us, from an eternal perspective, 100 years isn’t enough time to learn all that much.
That no matter how well you spend your time on earth, what you DO know will always be dwarfed by what you DON’T know.
As I told you last week, I think that humility can be extra difficult for us to embrace because culture teaches us the opposite.
We live in a culture where everyone speaks with authority about everything.
And now, b/c of social media, everybody has a microphone.
Fools Thought Wise
And so culture teaches us that if we want to appear intelligent, we have to have an opinion about everything.
Scripture though, doesn’t make that mistake:
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:28)
This is the verse Abraham Lincoln was riffing off of when he said:
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt. (Abraham Lincoln)
So humility is a fundamental aim of the Christ Follower. Because humility is one of the attributes that allows us to draw close to God and causes God to draw close to us.
Let’s look at a few verses to refresh our memory:
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. (Psalm 138:6)
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
“Behold, I am against you, O proud one, declares the Lord GOD of hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will punish you. (Jeremiah 50:31)
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b)
Proverbs 8 – Proverbs 8 is an interesting chapter in the Bible because it’s the character of ‘Wisdom’ speaking. So this is ‘wisdom’ itself speaking:
The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)
I find it interesting that wisdom hates arrogance. So you’re only as wise as you are humble. If you’re wise but arrogant, you’re not actually wise. Because wisdom hates arrogance.
That’s why, for me, when I see people become more wise, if they truly are becoming wise, they’re becoming, with it, more humble.
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” (Albert Einstein)
How Car Works When I was 10 years old, I understood perfectly well how a car works. You push the pedal down, the car goes forward. What’s not to understand? Now that I’m one month shy of 40 years old, I now realize I have NO IDEA how a car works. I mean you transport me back in time 200 years, I couldn’t help them build a car! I don’t know the first thing about how a car works! I think it has something to do with fire?! Like I don’t have any idea. I could tell them the wheels are supposed to have air in them. That’s about it.
Tease : When – 10 years old… I like to tease people and I’ll say: When you were 10 years old, you look back at your 8 years old self and think “Man, I was so stupid.” And when you’re 15 years old you think back to when you were 10 and you think “Man, I was so stupid.” And when you’re 20 years old you look back at your 15 years old self and think “Man, I was so stupid.” And when you’re 30 you think back to when you were 20 and think “Man, I was so stupid.” And guess what? You’re stupid now. You just don’t know it yet. But you will. Soon enough.
So the solution of course is something the Bible calls ‘Humility’.
- God is Omniscient (All Knowing) – You aren’t.
- God is Omnipotent (All Powerful) – You aren’t.
- God is Omnipresent (All Present) – You aren’t.
Body – Humble Practices
And so we of course understand that it can be difficult to simply say “If you feel like you’re more important or more intelligent than you really are, stop it.” It’s not always as easy as saying “Stop feeling that.” That’s why any faith system worth it’s salt will offer you not just goals on how you are to think and feel, but practices that help you get there.
And so what I have for you this morning is 8, yes 8 humble practices.
And to go over these, I want to welcome up my wonderful, beautiful, and oh-so-wise wife, Jordan. Can you help me welcome up Jordan?
1. Develop Empathy.
Empathy is not just caring for people who are less fortunate than you. Like “Awww… Look that homeless guy has a dog.” No, empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts and someone else’s feelings.
Empathy is not the same as Sympathy.
- Sympathy : feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
- Empathy : the ability to understand and share the feelings and thoughts of another.
So Sympathy is “My heart goes out to you. I pity you.”, Empathy is “I’m choosing to enter into what you’re thinking and I’m choosing to enter into what you’re feeling.”
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)
And so humble people are able to understand other people perspectives. Some of you absolutely do not do this. I know because I counsel you. And you’re posture is ‘People are only smart to the degree that they agree with me.’ No, that’s arrogant.
Empathy is “This is what I believe. And I believe that I’m right. But I understand why they think they way they do.”
I have strong held beliefs about God and what scripture does and DOES NOT teach. And I have some very different beliefs than some other well-known preachers and teachers. And so there’s a ‘rub’ in what I believe and what some other people believe. But what I DON’T do is pretend like I’m the only one who’s smart or that I’m the only one who takes it seriously. That would be arrogant. So I believe what I believe, but I understand why people believe other things and I understand that we’re all only going to see in part anyways.
So for this to be a practice, you’re going to need to know what kind of thinker you are. What does that mean? Well, we all think, we all process stuff, but we have different ways of doing it.
- Journaler – So this would be someone who thinks through things by writing. This is my wife, and this is also me. People are surprised to hear that I journal. But it’s a way to clarify and organize my thoughts.
- Internal Processor – People who just mull things over in their head and people have no idea. Think burly dude who wouldn’t be caught dead sharing his feelings. In fact, he’s angry at me right now accusing him of even HAVING feelings.
- External processor – People who think through things by talking them over with a trusted friend. These people need to be very careful if they want to be a Christian of course, because these people can also be horrible gossips.
- Talk to themself-ers – So these would be people who think through talking things over with themselves. Which is creepy but perfectly acceptable.
But you need to know where it is that you think through things and as you’re doing that, you deliberately try to see issues from the other persons side.
Fighting with Boss So for example, let’s say you were fighting with your boss. Well, you can go home and write in your journal, and to practice empathy, you could write “I had a disagreement with my boss, I felt this way, and I think they must have felt this way.” What you wouldn’t do is write “and then my boss said this I don’t know who peed in her Cheerios.”
2. Ask a question.
So for me, this is a practice for the idea last week of ‘Staying Curious’. Curiosity is basically a playful acknowledgment that you don’t know something.
Where you recognize that other people have something to teach you. And you can facilitate that by asking them questions.
So let’s say you have lunch with a friend from high school and you haven’t seen them in 10 years. Well, the arrogant thing to do would be to spend the entire lunch talking about yourself. The humble practice would be to ask questions.
I’m about to teach some of you how to make friends.
Let’s say they have a mobile pet grooming business. Ok cool. You could say “Oh my gosh, how cool is that! What made you get in to that?” They answer. You say “How many pets do you groom in a busy week?”
I’m telling you, some of you would have way more friends if you could learn to tell fewer stories and ask more questions.
So instead of trying to make it seem like you’re the most interesting person in the room, make it seem like they’re the most interesting person in the room.
Ask for feedback
Now listen, this does NOT mean, you give everyone permission to speak into your life. But you need to have trusted friends and advisors in your life and a humble practice is to ask them questions to try to learn.
3. Learn to properly apologize.
Soil on a Path In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the soils. That there are 4 different kinds of hearts that receive the word of God, and only 1 stands the test of time. Now one of the hearts that doesn’t last, Jesus says is like the soil on a path, that has been packed too hard, so the seed can’t get in.
And when I think of hard-hearted people, you know what I think of? People who are unable to apologize.
Marriage I see this constantly in marriages. I mean, you want to ruin your marriage in one easy step? Never apologize.
A year or two ago, I was talking with a husband who was having problems in his marriage. And he was telling me about this situation they were having where he felt like she wasn’t supporting him. And he felt like the conflict was her fault. And so I asked him “So let’s say the fault is 100%. Do you feel like it’s 100% her fault and 0% your fault?” And he said “Probably 99% her fault, 1% my fault.” And so I said “Ok cool, have you apologized?” And he said “I beg your pardon?” and I said “Yeah, have you apologized for your 1%?”
Now, I wouldn’t apologize like that. I would leave percentages out of it. From my own personal experience, I wouldn’t go, “Sweetheart, before we go to bed, I think that 1% of that was on me, and I’m sorry. Do you have anything you want to say to me?” I just don’t see that going well for anybody. No man has come back and said, “I did the percentage deal and it worked like a charm.” My recommendation is that you would leave percentages out of it and just go, “Sweetheart, I didn’t handle that correctly. I lashed out. I said things I didn’t mean. Can you please forgive me?” And then don’t go, “Now, do you have something to say?” Let it lie. Because here’s what you’ve done. In that moment, you have taken some gas away from the fire. Now all your wife will be left with is her own behavior. When you take yours off the table, she’ll simply be left with hers. So you take the initiative and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t handle that well.”
And this isn’t true just for marriages. This is true across the board.
4. Give an honest compliment.
Publicly complement someone who does work similar to yours.
Toxic Comparison Illustration of Jordan comparing her parenting and our parenting to that of our friends. They may do a different and they made it be doing it perfect for their unique context, but that doesn’t mean.
C.S. Lewis Quote There’s a great place where C.S. Lewis says in his book, Mere Christianity,
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”
That’s exactly right.
Write a thank you card.
Jordan – Gratitude
5. Pass on an opportunity to criticize or correct somebody.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (Matthew 7:1)
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)
I have to tell you, I don’t believe in magical superpowers, but if I had one, it would be that I can destroy anybody in an argument.
I don’t know if this is a blessing from God or a curse from the devil, but I just can. It’s like Kung-Fu, I use your own points against you. I bait you into saying what I need you to say so that I can turn it around on you and knock you on your butt.
And so this is certainly part of me practicing humility, to pass on an opportunity to criticize or correct somebody.
And so this is something that I have to practice all the time, because whenever I’m talking to someone, I’m secretly thinking “Wrong!”
One thing that is hysterical, is when you hear young preachers use phrases incorrectly. Am I the only one?
- Brad – “Beat you with a dead horse” Our previous youth pastor Brad one time from stage said to the teens “I don’t want to beat you with a dead horse.”
- Recently one of my friends texted me an idea and I didn’t love it and they said “Alright, back to the chopping board.”
6. Do something below your pay grade.
In Matthew 20, there’s this really cool interaction that Jesus has with 2 of his disciples mother.
James and John’s mother comes to Jesus and says basically “Hey when you establish your kingdom, would you mind putting my sons on your left and right side?”
Well Jesus responds with “You don’t even know what you’re asking.”
And then he turns to James and John and says “Can you drink from the cup I’m about to drink?” They say “Sure! Psh. Yeah!” They don’t realize he’s talking about his death.
Well the other disciples are mad when they hear about this. I don’t think it’s because they’re mad that James and John asked, but because they didn’t think of it first. They’re thinking “I shoulda brought my mom!”
Well, Jesus recognizes the teachable moment, sits them down, and says this:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Matthew 20:25)
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, (Matthew 20:26)
and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— (Matthew 20:27)
just as 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)
Basically what he’s saying is this: In the world, the person who’s ‘the greatest’ is the person being served. But in my kingdom, ‘the greatest’ is the person who’s doing the serving.
You think about all the things required to make a church like this function…
7. Practice anonymous kindness.
What does that mean? Well it means doing something that’s kind where no one knows you did it.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2)
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3)
so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:4)
I meet a lot of people who are eager to do nice things so long as somebody knows they did it.
Story of man in grocery store – Gave an offering Years ago I was in the grocery store and a man came up to me and said “Pastor David! I went to your church this weekend!” And I said “Oh wow, so great to meet you, etc.” And he said “Hey I gave $200 in the offering, just wanted to make sure you got it.” And I wanted to say “You do know that money doesn’t go to me right? I mean, if you put it in the container, we got it. It’s a pretty efficient system we have here.” But no I just told him “Oh I’m sure we did. Thank so much for that, that was so generous of you.”
But anonymous kindness is actually pretty difficult. Because if no one knows you did it, it just feels like a waste. But it’s not. And I believe it’s a great way to practice humility. Being kind because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re get noticed for it.
- Leave a suspended coffee
- Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru
- Pick up litter around your neighborhood.
- Donate to a cause on ‘Go Fund Me’ and don’t put your name.
- Clean the coffee pot at work, even if you weren’t the last person to use it.
- Go walk the dogs at an animals shelter
- Participate in the outreach efforts put on by the church. – Love helps kids, BCA Christmas outreach, LoveABQ, etc.
- Support a charity monthly without telling everybody about it.
8. Give God the credit.
You can be annoying with this so be careful. There’s something called ‘False Humility’ which is actually a way of drawing MORE attention to yourself because you’re acting so humble. So we’re not talking about that. But giving God credit for stuff people are trying to give you credit for, is something Jesus himself does.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18)
Now look, Jesus was good. And Ironically enough, Jesus was God. But I believe Jesus is modeling for us humility. Where he’s taking something that he’s done and using it to bring glory to God.
Paul really lays it out when he says:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Ronnie Coleman “Praise God” There’s this huge bodybuilder that I love named Ronnie Coleman. Just enormous. Probably the most famous and successful bodybuilder of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Super strong Christian. Well I was watching a documentary on him one time and he was at the gym, and they had bought these 200lb dumbbells for him to bench press. Some of you are thinking “I bench press with 5’s, how hard can 200 be?” If you don’t know, 200lb dumbbells (in particular) are exceptionally heavy. Benchpressing 400 pounds is hard, but doing it with 200lb dumbbells is really amazing. Anyways, they were getting too light for him, so he was talking to the gym owner and the gym owner said “We’re gonna need to get heavier dumbbells for you” And Ronnie Coleman said “Praise God”. And I just remember thinking “That is so cool.”
Pride is claiming to be the author of what is really a gift. It’s looking at your life and saying, “I’m the author of it,” when it’s nothing but a gift.
Pride is a form of cosmic plagiarism. Something has been given to you, and you say, “I wrote it. I composed it. I did it.” You claim to be the author of what is really a gift.
Downplay your own contribution / Magnify the part God plays
As I close, I want to say that one of the most effective ways of combatting pride is gratitude.
Gratitude is seeing your life clearly. If you’re not grateful, it’s because you’re delusional. If you saw your life for what it really is, you’d be grateful.
Look, nobody’s life turns out exactly like they had planned. But make no mistake, everything good in your life is a gift.
- You didn’t earn it.
- You didn’t deserve it.
- You didn’t create it.
- It’s all a gift.
(Invitation) – And of course the greatest gift any of us will ever receive is the free gift that Jesus offers us…