(Luke 9: 46-48, The Message) They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”
“You’re getting a little too big for your britches.” My siblings and I heard that a few times in our growing up years. My mother was teaching us humility. We were made to apologize. We were held accountable for wrongdoings, and we certainly were not treated as if one of us was better than anyone else. My mother would defend us, had we been treated unfairly, but she was also that mom who would side with the teacher when we got a negative phone call home or a bad grade. I never felt unsupported, but I knew she wasn’t falling for any kind of bull I shot her way. The few times in my life that I did manage to pull the wool over her eyes…well…I had to think and plan to get away with it. Soooo not worth the time and guilt! My mother kept us humble by holding us accountable. No matter the amount of tears, stomping, yelling, protesting…we would suffer the consequences, and we would be made to do what was expected of us.
My dad’s version of teaching humility was a little different. He simply modeled it through his life. He was and is one of the humblest and meekest of all the people I have known in my life…always putting others before himself (especially his wife and children), and never seeking to be someone or something he was not. A remarkably charismatic and intelligent preacher, he never sought anything further than seeing the lives of people truly, and miraculously changed by the presence and the word of God. His humility often came in the form of an astonishingly great amount of patience and love. Others above self…always.
All of which to say, I am grateful for parents who saw the importance of humility and love…choosing to make those attributes a priority in their parenting. We were always around people who were societal “misfits” so to speak. My parents, through their own lives, taught us to be loving and accepting of everyone…to be Christ to others as much as possible.
As children, I think that most everyone has the typical delusions of grandeur that are innate. They’re housed in the part of our spirit that also produces our imagination, our sense of wonder, and our ability to love just about anyone. We desire to be the best in all things. Unfortunately, this seems to be the one and only thing from that part of our spirit that seems to survive past puberty. We naturally get a little too big for our own proverbial “britches.” Greatness isn’t a bad thing to strive for, but it’s how we achieve it that can take us into that place of haughtiness that is so dangerous and addictive to the human spirit. Proverbs 16: 18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” We have to be careful not to become like Jacob just before he wound up in a wrestling match with God, attempting to acquire everything we want and what we think we need by our own means and plans. Jacob was definitely too big for his britches.
If you become “great” by asserting it…proclaiming, “I am the greatest!!”…by going your own route…by acquiring things and wealth…by competing and winning…then you are looking at greatness as the world sees it, and not through the eyes of God. But when you can accept that you need God…accept others as they are…accept yourself as God made you…your foundation of humility is the strength upon which true greatness can be built.
Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.
Prayer: Lord I recognize that in order to make You bigger, in the world and in my life, I must make myself smaller. Give me patience when I struggle through the times when you are breaking me down, making me humble, and helping me to build on that foundation. Amen.