Humility, Deference, and Truth


Pastor Rich spoke of humility yesterday, and modeled Paul as an example.  Here is a man (Paul) who was willing to put his prior accomplishments behind him and consider them as rubbish.  It was Christ, and Him crucified, that deserved the glory.

Resting on one’s laurels is an old problem.  In fact, the phrase itself makes reference to those who reflect and refer to their past prizes (laurel wreaths were frequently used in ancient times as trophies).

Resting on laurels can give a sense of entitlement and there is a danger that one expects deference because of it.  Herein lies the temptation of pride. There is a rabbinic story of an old rabbi, who was on his death bed.  All of his students and disciples lined up to hear what he had to say, for everyone knows death bed wisdom, is the most sage of all.  So the most talented student leaned close to hear what his last words would be.  The master aware of the expectation, asked a question of his own.  “What is the answer that you yearn for most?” This was passed down the line from the most talented unto the least. There was silence, then the most talented, drawing on all of his courage said, “Rabbi, what is the meaning of life?”  This question was related down the line.  Then, the old teacher responded: “Life my boy, is like a cup of tea.” This great gem was immediately passed down the line.  All pondered it, each unsure, but unwilling to indicate they failed to grasp his meaning.  Then, the least adept queried: “How is it like a cup of tea?” Each shook there heads in disapproval as they passed the question on to the master. When at last hearing, the question, the old rabbi shrugged and said, “Well, maybe it isn’t.”

The old rabbi of our story, had long enjoyed the respect, and deference of those around him.  He had lost the humility of saying he didn’t know. Are we any different? We also (like his students) often fail to examine things for ourselves, if some “authority” has spoken.  We in our pride, don’t want to either say we don’t understand, or in a false modesty don’t want to make waves.

It is not pride to question, and it is not necessarily humility to unquestionably accept things. It has long been an evangelical Christian tenet, to read the scriptures ourselves, even when they are presented from the pulpit.  We are not to uncritically accept what we are told, but to be like the Bereans. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Act 17:11 NIV).” This was not arrogance on their part, but an eager desire to get it right. To find what is true, and to live up to it.



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