As I sat in the choir this morning I had a great view of our church nativity scene. It being the first Sunday of Advent, however, it was not what you might expect to see. There is a big lighted, open fronted, wooden barn. Inside there were a couple of sheep and a shepherd.
- Everyday life in Bethlehem. Shepherds, farmers and their families.
This is actually the most normal scene it could be. Most barns and stables are there for the farmers, in this case shepherds, to house their animals. Barns are not for people to stay in, and certainly not to be confused with maternity wards! Christmas Eve will see a young family move into the stable. How does this come to pass? They will be in the stable because there was no vacancy at any of the inns in Bethlehem.
This is a pretty familiar story isn’t it? I wonder if there are vacancies in our hearts for the travelers, the tired, the poor, the displaced, and other folks in need in our communities and our world. In Bethlehem the inns were filled up with those people, in town for the census, without families with whom they could stay. Not only that, but they were the ones who had started out early, planned wisely, and traveled quickly. From many people’s perspective, Mary and Joseph brought their problems on themselves, they didn’t deserve a room since they didn’t have their acts together! Mary,however, was in no condition to travel more quickly.
How often do you hear people question whether or not the poor deserve our support. After all, “If they didn’t want to be poor they should get off their butts and get jobs!” When we feel this way, the rooms of our heart are all filled up with self-righteousness, pride, and prejudice. For those people most in need, their material help may lie with us, so we need to pray for help with clearing out those undesirable tenants. Remembering that we in no way deserve the grace of God, and that we constantly do things that make us less deserving, should be the humbling we need to remove the pride and self-righteousness. The only thing we can do to get rid of the prejudices taking up space in our hearts, is to learn about, and get to know those who need our help.
Today we are beginning the pet peeve section of my blog. Well, not really, but today’s topic is certainly one of my pet peeves! I believe that sometime in the last fifteen years the actual meaning of the word humble has been swallowed up and it has moved over into the false-modesty category. When you are elected to office, given a special award, or graduate from something you are being honoured. It is not possible for it to be humbling!
Don’t believe that people really say this? On election night in 2011, “What a great night,” Canadian Prime Minister Harper exclaimed as he addressed cheering supporters in Calgary. “And friends, I have to say it: A strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government. We are grateful, deeply honoured — in fact, humbled — by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have reposed in us,” (canada.com)
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia’s acceptance speech following his election as new WCC general secretary 28 August 2003 included the following, “I want to say that for me, this is a very humbling affair. I am deeply humbled by this great honour of being elected the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.”
thefreedictionary.com posts the following definitions
adj. hum·bler, hum·blest
1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.
2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly: a humble cottage.
tr.v. hum·bled, hum·bling, hum·bles
1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.
2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.
To give a lower condition or station to; abase. See Synonyms at degrade
I think the reason some people are using the word humble in their acceptance speeches is that they are made to feel “modest in spirit” by the win or honour. What they may be feeling is embarrassment or unworthiness which may sound the same, but if they really felt that way would they not then decline the honour? For many it is a way to insert false-modesty into their speech. Certainly nobody who spends millions of dollars and every waking minute of months of their time campaigning to win an election should feel that they deserve the job or we are in real trouble!
Let’s look at some examples of humbleness. The word humble can be found 25 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible. Moses tells Pharaoh (definitely not an humble person) to humble himself and let the Israelites go and then later speaking to those very people whom God saved tells them that they wandered in the desert for fourty years in order to humble them. (Exo 10:3, Deu 8:2, 16) We are frequently called upon to humble ourselves before God and over and over again it is noted that God hears the humble and does not forget the humble. In Proverbs 6:9 it says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Later, in the New Testament when it says that the humble will be lifted up it doesn’t mean that if you act humble you will get earthly attention and wealth, but to be truly lifted up into the presence of God.
If none of those examples give a clear picture of true humility, look at Jesus. God humbled himself to the point of being born as a helpless infant in a lambing shed along with the animals. He lived a simple life with his parents and an even simpler life as he traveled the countryside during his ministry. There were no fancy campaign busses (or white steeds), slogans or $100-a-plate fundraising dinners. He didn’t wear fancy clothing like the members of the Sanhedrin, and on the night of the Last Supper he knelt down and washed his disciples feet like a servant, and refused to let his followers fight to save him from arrest. In the next several days he allowed himself to be whipped and beaten, hung on a cross with common criminals, and to be defeated by death. This is humbled.
As we go to bed tonight, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to be truly humble in our lives, that we might be lifted up by God.
The 25 uses of the word humble come from; Exo 10:3,Deu 8:2,Deu 8:16,Jdg 19:24,2 Ch 7:14,2,Ch 34:27,Job 22:29,Psa 9:12, Psa 10:12,Psa 10: 17,Psa 34:2,Psa 69:32,Pro 6:3,Pro 16″19,Pro 29:23,Isa 57:15,Jer 13:18,Mat 18:4,Mat 23:12,2 Co 12:21,Jas 4:6,Jas 4:10,1 Pe 5″5,1 Pe 5:6
Posted in Pet Peeves, Reflections
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