Human beings tend to look at themselves as having it all together, we’re in control of our destinies and we think we’re smart, intelligent and superior in all things. However, you don’t have to look at our societies too long or too hard to see that we’re actually none of those things. If we were, we wouldn’t be in such a mess all the time. We learned in the last program that in the west in particular, we’re incredibly self-focused; we believe we’re the centre of the universe and that every decision or action we take should be about us and what we want. ‘Self’ is a constant in our lives and our environments.
Because we’re so self-focused and self-obsessed we elevate ourselves to the point where man has deified himself. In fact, in New Age religious philosophy and secular humanism…’self’ is either the ‘divine within’ or we’re the answer to all human problems and those answers can be found within ourselves. Considering the mess our societies are in, we don’t appear to be very successful!
On the flip-side of elevating ourselves, we’ve made God so casual, so approachable, so friendly and so indulgent of us, that we’ve pulled Him down to our level. So man has deified himself but humanised God making the gap so small that there’s not that much difference. This is very dangerous and totally anti-Biblical.
Isaiah 55:8-9, ‘”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”‘
In truth, the gap between God and His human creation is so wide it’s beyond measure.
Because we’ve elevated ourselves so much, we’re experiencing a very peculiar phenomenon in that the more our society drives home the importance of ‘self’, the more dissatisfied we are and the more personal crisis’ our society experiences. People are incredibly unhappy and dissatisfied with who they are than ever before.
The truth is, while we elevate ourselves, we know ourselves all too well, and we know that we’re not as fantastic as we’d like everyone else to believe.
Men wanting to be women, women wanting to be men, white people wanting to be black and black people wanting to be white, tall people wanting to be short and short people wanting to be tall. Rich people wanting more and poor people wanting what the rich have. There are people who are now associating themselves as being dragons, dogs, cats and wolves and still others are marrying their pets and some people have even been known to marry buildings, walls and bridges and that’s not a joke!
The more man elevates himself the further he falls. Elevating self isn’t working! The struggle really comes from knowing or understanding our worth; we all want to be valuable to someone or something, we strive for worth and value through competition, pride, and tearing others down but this doesn’t prove worth and value, in fact it proves the opposite.
Conversely, we might think that humility is about seeing ourselves as useless, weak, untalented, and insignificant. That’s not humility, it’s false humility. What constitutes true humility?
Proverbs 15:33, ‘The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honour comes humility.’
Proverbs 18:12, ‘Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honour.’
The Bible’s view of humility isn’t one of self-actualisation, self-esteem, self-promotion and self-satisfaction, rather the Bible’s view of humility is inseparably entwined with healthy, reverential fear of God and the destruction of a heart full of haughty pride. Humility then is about self-denial, self-discipline and self-critique. It’s still about self but from a self-less attitude.
This seems to fly in the face of pop-psychology that has invaded and thoroughly permeates our culture. It’s very true that there are a lot of people dealing with a lot of issues, there are a great many people experiencing extreme emotional crisis and this is usually the result of behaviours either of the individual or of other individuals in their lives. Things they’ve done themselves or things done to them by others and the pain is real.
However, because all of humanity is broken and in pain as a result of sin, we’re all in exactly the same predicament to various degrees and levels of course. It’s not a new predicament, it’s an ancient one and we don’t need self-esteem and self-confidence, we need to understand that we are but dust, clay vessels that are in fact broken, who need forgiveness and restoration from the Master Potter who formed and created us in the first place. We’re cracked pots. I’m absolutely not downplaying their pain, not at all.
Understand that our greatest need is for forgiveness and restoration – just like every other cracked, broken clay human pot reveals just how valued we are to our Maker.
First, He created us in His image and likeness, and that fact alone shows that He wants us to be part of Him.
Second, before He created us He knew that we would sin and become broken and cracked and damaged so He set His plan of redemption in motion and went ahead and created us anyway. Why? Because He loves and values His creation.
Third, His plan of redemption required that God would take on human form, becoming one of us, in order to die in our place for our sin so that we could be healed, restored and become His children.
Fourth, understanding the extreme depth of God’s love, compassion and commitment to save cracked, broken clay humanity should result in us exalting and worshipping Him for His goodness and grace, and our own grateful humility. Grateful that God would go to such extreme lengths to rescue us and humility because we know all too well just how broken, cracked and weak we really are – He rescued damaged goods – we’re cracked pots.
Back to the paradox…yes, we are but dust; physical human creations with bodies that are marvelous and wondrously created, but clay vessels that have been cracked and broken by sin and the consequences of sin, but our great value and worth doesn’t come from us but from that fact that we have been created in the image and likeness of God Himself – we’re not divine, we’re reflecting the divine One who created, rescued and is restoring us. Both the saint and sinner reflect the image and likeness of God and that’s where the value of humanity lies.
The Jewish community have been ridiculed since their community began because of their distinctiveness not only in how they dress but in their cultural and religious traditions, even in how they eat. Some of their traditions needed to be criticised because they were violating the Word of God and Jesus called the religious leaders out about them, but not all their traditions are bad or contravene Scripture. (Matt 15)
One of the distinct things about Judaism is it’s literal understand of God’s Word which we’ve mentioned many times; for example, when God commanded His people to be diligent in teaching and obeying His commands, He said they were to study and teach them both day and night and to bind them on their hand and before their eyes and to put them on their doorposts and their gates. (Deut 6:7-9)
To this day, religious Jews are committed to studying and teaching Torah day and night, even while they’re working or spending time with their family and friends, just going about their daily lives…no matter what they’re doing, they make the Word of God the ever-present action in all they do. Orthodox and religious Jews wear phylacteries containing the Word of God on their forehead and on the inside of their left arm when they pray, in order to be obedient to God’s command and they also place the Word of God on the doors of them homes and some even on the gates of their properties. Why? Because God commanded them to keep His Word before their eyes all the time so they wouldn’t forget it.
Wearing the Tsit-Tsit (tassels) on their clothing is quite a humbling thing because in other nations of the world, this distinct marker make them a target for aggression and persecution and mocking. Another thing they often wear is a kippah, the small disc-like piece of cloth on their heads, and it also makes them a target, especially if they live anywhere but in Israel.
The kippah is not mandated in the Bible, but traditionally it began with a particularly pious rabbi who began wearing it as a mark of humility. When a man prays to God he covers his head in a show of humility because as a sinful, fallen man he cannot stand upright and uncovered before God, but when a man finishes praying, his prayer shawl (tallit) is folded carefully and put away and he goes about his daily work. This particular rabbi believed that no matter where he was, God was there because God is omnipresent, so he began wearing the small kippah to ensure he expressed humility in God’s presence no matter where he was or what he was doing. Other’s copied him and another Jewish tradition was established.
We don’t need to wear kippas or tassels, but we do need to live in humility before God. Our value and worth should be expressed through genuine humility and our example of godly humility can be seen in the life of Jesus, He exemplified humility and we are called to imitate Him.
Philippians 2:3-11, ‘Don’t do anything from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; don’t merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Jesus Messiah, who, although He existed in the form of God, didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
I’ve heard some Christians say things like, “I’m not a servant, I’m a son!”
Yes, we’re sons and daughters of God, we’ve been adopted into His family. That’s absolutely true. But when Jesus prayed for His disciples and spent time with them on the night before He was arrested He gave them the perfect lesson in how we are to conduct ourselves toward others.
He showed them what being His follower and disciple was supposed to look like. He wrapped a towel or cloth around His waist and took on the role of the lowest household slave, and one by one He washed His disciples feet. He told them that a servant isn’t greater than His master and He was their Master. So if the Master humbled Himself the lowest role of a slave, then we are to follow His example and not think more highly of ourselves. Our identity is in Him, and in Him do we find redemption, healing and restoring for the brokenness of our cracked pot lives.
[i] Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Peshischa, contrasting Mishnah,Sanhedrin 4:5 and Genesis 18:27.
[ii] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 45-46.