Shelby G. Floyd
There are two human attitudes which are as far apart as the North Pole is from the South Pole. Those two attitudes are pride and humility. The Bible warns repeatedly concerning the attitude of pride, and the Bible repeatedly admonishes us and encourages us to take on the spirit of humility.
John Ruskin once wrote,
“I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility doubt of his own powers, but really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them, and they see something divine in every other man, and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”
Another writer, B. F. Riley, said, “Lowliness is essential to loftiness.” Someone has said concerning humility, “Lowliness is the base of every virtue, and he who goes the lowest builds the safest.” Still another writer has pointed out that, “A sound head, an honest heart and a humble spirit are the three best guides through time and to eternity.” Each of these statements simply expresses the teaching of the New Testament scriptures concerning the importance of humility on the part of every child of God.
The Spirit of Pride
The egotistical, self-seeking, arrogant spirit of many today is nothing new under the sun. Even the apostles of Jesus Christ had this spirit, and Jesus repeatedly had to correct their attitudes, and teach them the spirit of humility.
On one occasion the disciples asked Jesus the pointed question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answered their question by calling a little child unto him, and by setting this little child in the midst of the apostles. Having done this he said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4 ESV).
Was this teaching of Jesus Christ on this occasion sufficient to change the attitude of the apostles from pride, egotism and a haughty spirit to that of the humility of a little child? No, definitely it was not, for just two chapters later, in the gospel according to Matthew, we find that this spirit was still among them.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, desired preeminent places of power, influence and prestige in what they thought would be an earthly kingdom. They sent their mother to ask Christ for the right hand and the left hand position when he would come in his kingdom. However the worldly spirit and attitude of the apostles could not be characteristic of them in the kingdom of God. His kingdom was not to be worldly, but spiritual in nature. The kingdom of God would be the reign of God in the hearts of men. Jesus said one time, “The kingdom of God is within you,” that is, it is a spiritual reign within the hearts of men.
Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom?
The question as to who is the greatest in the kingdom of God caused havoc then, and it has caused havoc in the church of our Lord since that time, and it is still with us today. It brought on indignation in the small band of apostles. Jesus called all of them to him and explained that the spirit of the world would not be characteristic of his spiritual kingdom. “You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 25-28). Was this sharp rebuke of Jesus Christ to the apostles sufficient to correct their worldly and materialistic attitude? No, definitely it was not.
Christ Washed the Disciples Feet
Just before Jesus died upon the cross, he ate the last Passover supper with his apostles in an upper room. It had been provided by a host. Ordinarily the host did the low, humble, menial task of washing the feet of those who were the guests. But on this occasion, there was no host, and none of the apostles volunteered to perform the lowly task. Therefore Jesus, before supper, laid aside his outer garment, girded himself with a towel, poured water in a basin and washed the disciple’s feet. Since they had such a worldly spirit, they were not capable of understanding what Jesus was doing in washing their feet. But later they would understand why Jesus washed their feet.
Jesus washed their feet in order to impress upon them the spirit of humility, service and true greatness in the kingdom of God. After Jesus had done so, he said, “Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13: 12-15). Jesus washed the disciple’s feet and used this as an object lesson to impress upon them that in the king¬dom of God, which would be a spiritual institution, that they should serve one another in humility, and not to be lifted up with pride and arrogance, egotism and the spirit of self-seeking. Later, these same apostles went out through the entire world to preach the gospel to every creature. They then understood what their Lord had been trying to impress upon them for three and one-half years.
The Humble Shall be Exalted
In Luke 14:11, Jesus had said, “…he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The great apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans said, “Be not high minded, but fear.” One chapter later he said, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12: 16).
Let all who read these words take on the spirit of humility and the Lord will exalt us in due time.
Shelby G. Floyd
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