On Humility

Yesterday I mentioned some interesting connections between stuff and people that I had been reading, how even if one thing didn’t explicitly lead to another, I still kind of ended up at a particular destination with so much in tow.

It’s true of books and authors.  It’s also true of concepts.  Take the virtue of humility.  It’s something that comes up at school often because it’s one of our long-term expectations for people in our learning community.  It’s a word we have to (re)define often because it can have a negative connotation for some people.  But redefine it we do, doing our best to start with our position before God.  Humility, especially of the epistemic kind, shows up in different ways in my last two posts.  What role does humility have in the life and work of the writer and journalist?  How does humility play into our understanding of intent and fulfillment in life, particularly as it relates to faith?

Humility is also the topic of a recent piece by Hans Boersma over at First Things.  He writes about in the context of our culture of self-promotion, which is as good a place as any to start.  And it quickly turns to Christian tradition, the biblical story, and (ultimately) to Jesus.

First up is Saint Benedict followed by Thomas Aquinas, two men in church history who didn’t just define the concept but also lived it out well.  Humility, in the final analysis, stands at the far end from pride.  Jesus points to humility, Boersma asserts, by directing our attention to “the little children” who understand things that the “wise and understanding” cannot grasp.  In his actions and disposition, Jesus embodies humility.  And as such, Boersma asserts, Jesus challenges us to follow His lead.

Jesus insists that his humility should be ours: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). Jesus wants us to learn his humility so that we may gain his wisdom. If Wisdom-in-Person humbles himself on a donkey, we should take that same yoke and humble ourselves.

Jesus’s invitation to learn from his humility is not new. To stoop down is in God’s character.

We too easily, to quickly, run ahead thinking that we know things, have come up with them from our own sense of creativity.  Which may be true but may not be best in the long run, as proper humility tempers things appropriately.

I am reminded of the letter of James, where he reminds believers to humble themselves in God’s sight so that He might exalt them, might lift them up.  Our part in the equation is clear.  And we have Jesus’ example to lead the way.  Near the end, Boersma asserts:

To share in Christ’s wisdom is to adopt his humility. It’s a sensible approach, for it takes us to the top of the ladder: Jesus promises rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–29). The rest of which he speaks is a place in the eternal knowledge shared between Father and Son.

It is good to remember rest.  It’s the one thing our endless self-promotion and and prideful straining ahead won’t allow for.  And that rest is something all of us were made for.

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