Numbers 30-31; Mark 9:30-50
Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:33-49 (italics added)
I want to avoid standing on a soapbox but this passage is one of a few times Jesus uses children as an object lesson for his disciples that we often misinterpret. How many of us at one time have heard that we are to ‘have faith like a little child’, or ‘childlike faith’? It’s a phrase that occurs nowhere in the scriptures, and although it has good intentions, and there is probably some truth to it, it can be very destructive as a brushing off answer when people have hard questions.
Jesus is using the children to demonstrate that we must be servants, making ourselves of humble stature (as children were in those days), in order to be truly great. I love the subversive nature of that teaching right after the disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest.
Humility is a tricky thing. One of my favorite teachers says, ‘Pride is a mirror, humility is a window.’ In other words if I’m constantly thinking of myself, even if I think lowly of myself, I’m still being prideful. Humility isn’t thinking lowly of myself, it’s not thinking of myself at all. It’s a focus on God and others. I’m guilty of this all the time; it’s a different sort of pride, one that almost looks like humility, which makes t even more difficult to notice. The ‘humble brag’ as my generation would call it, is an epidemic. It’s the response to praise that says, ‘oh it’s nothing, I’m no good, I just got lucky…’ etc. rather than accepting praise, but pointing to God all the glory, because without him we can do nothing.
Another teacher I look up to has on the wall of his office this quote, “God forgive me for thinking to highly of myself, forgive me for thinking to lowly of myself, and forgive me for thinking of myself so stinkin’ much.”
I think the trick to learning true humility, is to not think about whether or not I’m being humble or prideful, but to begin to only think of God and of others. I’d argue that every action of Jesus was motivated either by his Love for God, or his Love for people, but never by love for himself.
Lord help me to fulfill the greatest commandment, to Love you with all that you’ve created me to be, and to Love others as if they were me.