Being Great AND Humble
That would be me!
Thought that would get your attention. Before you chalk me off as a pompous, arrogant SOB, read on. We recoil from folks who don't miss a chance to tell us how great they are, or how smart or skilled their children are. In fact we don't like being around the guy who wears his success on his sleeve and doesn't mind drawing attention to it at every turn.
On the other hand who wants to be around the person who grovels about unable to accept any commendation. He may crave acceptance and accolades as much as the next guy but he can't bring himself to admit it. So he's learned to act humble on the outside while strategizing to collect kudos. THAT would be me.
Jesus made this poignant analogy to his disciples. "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" Luke 17:7-10 So much for an entitlement mindset!
On the other hand there are Scriptures that urge us to recognize excellence and to honor the worthy. Paul wrote, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." (II Timothy 5:17) Concerning Epaphroditus Paul wrote, "So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me." (Philippians 2:29-30)
It would appear then that God does not regard greatness and humility to be mutually exclusive. Of course not! Who was the greatest human being that ever lived? I dare say there's universal consensus on this. Jesus. Who was known for his humility? Again, Jesus.
Not long ago a fellow hubber posted an interview she conducted with me. It is part of a series she titles Inspirational Voices. Mine is called Inspirational Voice of a Spiritual Kind. If you read on into the comments section, you'll find a lengthy piece by a fellow who calls himself OldSchool1812. Despite his being a bit over the top in his feelings for his father-in-law, I ate it up.
About the same time another hubber posted the following comment on one of my own hubs: "Ah, thank you! I've often seen questions regarding this and I was really short on what to say. This has really inspired me (in the real way), and one big question in my head has finally been answered :) Hopefully I can get past the barrier separating me and God :)" Now that warms any pastor's heart. It tempts this one to dream of greatness, "Crane, you're not so bad after all!
Am I alone in this struggle? Dysfunctional, psychotic, morbidly introspective? Maybe. Maybe not!
Depends on who you are
Are you the person who has done something commendable? Yours is to credit the Lord who enabled you to succeed. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31) No, I don't mean you should answer every compliment with a verbal "praise the Lord!" That gets old and sounds fake. It's a matter of the heart. Does the accolade spawn humble thankfulness or kindle a fire in your belly to get more? The latter will get you into trouble.
Are you the person who has benefited by another's good deed? Commend her, of course! Find creative and surprising ways to call attention to the other's greatness. God doesn't mind sharing his glory with the human instruments by whom he blesses us. Ours is not to make them humble but to build them up. Again there are some pretty silly phrases we Christians use that must sound hilarious to the world. How about "I love you... in the Lord"? It usually comes from someone of the opposite gender who is afraid his commendation is going to be misinterpreted. But might the recipient wonder "Am I so despicable that if it weren't for the Lord, he couldn't love me"?
You say "Thank you" to the friendly cashier who competently and quickly rings up your groceries and sends you off with a heartfelt, "Have a good day!" That's cool and brightens the gloomiest of moods. You sincerely commend your wife for a delightful meal she served despite feeling a bit under the weather and tending to three toddlers. That exchange means a little more than my first example. It commends not just the act but the character of the person. And it comes from a person who knows her well. The more we know the person, the closer we are to him, the more significant is the commendation... or the lack thereof.
Now let's take it to the next level. When Almighty and All-knowing God commends you and enjoys your company, that's got to be awesome. Consider this expression of God's feelings for his own. "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)
I can live with that!
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