Businesses are always looking for it in their employees. For sure in their leadership. We want friends that don’t just preach it but possess it. The church is supposed to live it, though if we’re honest it’s equally rare within as without the church. We desire to embody it, and aspire to be a good example of it, but frankly if we think we have it we probably don’t.
It’s probably the single most talked-about and sought-after trait in a fellow human. When we think of the most impactful and memorable (from a positive perspective) leaders throughout history we probably would use that adjective within the first three to describe what made them unique. As common as these factors are about the word, why is it that it’s pretty rare? I mean, I’m certain I don’t possess it and I sure want to. What makes it so difficult when it’s so favored?
I think I struck a chord this week during my reading, and I stumbled upon a scriptural reminder that I am going to keep in my pocket with a great many others that I usually have to tap into from time-to-time. The chord was during my continued daily reading from Deuteronomy 5-34, Psalms 91, and Joshua 1-15, and I’ll embellish more below when I unpack Deuteronomy 8:11-17. The reorientation it spurred in me was a slight revision of the word.
“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’
Talk about a great “true north” passage! As I read through it, I had to admit that in many respects I violated the very heart of the listed “bewares.” It sets forth quite the admonition with the underlying theme being to alert us that the more we achieve and accomplish in life, the more apt we are to pat ourselves on the back, to give ourselves a high-five, to puff out our chests, to speak glowingly in the first-person. Think of your favorite politician, actor, athlete, etc. Chances are better than not that it is their service, their hard work, their study, their focus, their gifts, their talents that get the credit for the heights they reach. More often than I’d like to admit … for the heights I’ve reached in life it’s my service, my hard work, my study, my focus, my gifts, my talents that I attribute. That is NOT humility.
So how do we reframe our thinking and acknowledging? Him-ility.
I think the only way we can actually achieve the humility that we are seeking is to redirect our thinking toward Him-ility. The Holy Spirit prompted Moses to write in the Deuteronomy passage the key to Him-ility … it’s about HIM, not about ME. John the Baptist expressed the standard for a Him-ble life when he said of Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT)
Note that in John’s words, there are actually two conditionalities to achieving Him-ility. One we tend to assume is how we achieve humility … “I must become less and less.” But IF we really want to achieve humility, we have to chase Him-ility. That’s the part where John says, “He must become greater and greater.” And notice, that part comes first.
I don’t believe there is a true, reliable or lasting path to humility … I mean, Him-ility … without the predicate step of making Jesus more and more and more in our lives. That allows for us to become less and less and less … and in the process for Him to make us more and more and more in the manner that would give Him maximum glory and us maximum blessing. Ironic, huh? When we make Jesus more, we can make ourselves less, and He can make us more (just see 1 Peter 5:6 if you don’t believe me). Hence the ONLY path to humility is Him-ility.
This actually squares with my experience. When I look back … with honesty … on the achievements of my life, just as Moses wrote above, I see God’s hand in all of it. Not a single thing I’ve ever done came as the result of my own ability, effort, gifts, talents or intellect. Any of those things I possess – and those that know me might dispute whether I really possess them haha – are because God provided them. God freed the Israelites from slavery, led them through the wilderness, gave them water from a rock and food from nowhere. If we’re really authentic as we gaze back over our lives, we will also see how He freed us from bondage, led us through our wilderness experiences, and provided us sustenance when it seemed there was none.
Let’s go before God in prayer this week and ask Him to give us not a spirit of humility, but a spirit of Him-ility. Let’s ask Him to help us remember that the only way we can lead our businesses, guide our families, conduct our friendships, and live our lives in a lowly and genuine way is to look to Him. To have Him be more and more and more as the Guide of our lives, so we can be less and less and less. Then, and only then, can He make us more and more and more in His eyes.
Soli Deo gloria!