Humility and How I Perfected It

Or you might relate to the tax collector in the Temple. You’ve done what it took to build a relationship with God. You’ve confessed the sins of your past and made restitution. You’ve paid the price to follow God this week–you’ve read your Bible and prayed, you’ve given and served, you’ve done all you could to please God. I’m like that as well. We would never claim to be Pharisees in their legalistic perfection, but we’ve done what we needed to do to be right with God.

But when was the last time you grieved for your sins? When was the last time you couldn’t even look up at God for shame? When was the last time you admitted that you were “the” sinner, as bad as the worst person you’ve seen on the news this week?

I know when–it was the last time you compared yourself not to others or to the person you used to be, but to God. It was the last time you compared your attempts at service to his universe-producing power; the last time you compared your relatively uncheckered past to his eternal perfection; the last time you compared your relative morality to his perfect holiness.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Whatever a man is in the sight of God, that he is, and no more.” When was the last time you saw yourself in his sight?

Conclusion

I must tell you that this parable terrifies me. It terrifies me to think of all the times I thought I had met God when I didn’t; all the times I thought I prayed, or praised, or worshiped, but my self-sufficient, complacent pride kept me from him. It terrifies me to think of all the times my church family didn’t meet God but thought they did. Does this parable terrify you? If it doesn’t, you of all people need to be terrified most.

Why does God ask us to measure ourselves by him and come to him with humility and repentance? Because he loves us. He is a spiritual oncologist who wants to remove the cancer we won’t admit we have. That’s why Jesus’ first sermon began, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). That’s why his first Beatitude states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who know their need of God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Are you comfortable where you are, or do you have a humble passion to know God as he is? Are you a Pharisee or a tax-collector? There is no third option.

As usual, C. S. Lewis said this better than I can. I was reading in Mere Christianity yesterday and found a paragraph worth considering.

Lewis says that “what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is the spiritual life–the higher and different sort of life that exists in God.” Our biological life comes to us from nature and is always tending to decay and run down, so that it must be incessantly subsidized by nature in the form of air, food, water, and so on. The spiritual life is with God from eternity, and created the whole natural world.

Lewis also points out a “shadowy and symbolic resemblance” between the natural life and the spiritual life, but it is the kind of resemblance which exists between a picture and a place or a statue and a man. A man who changed from natural life to spiritual life would have undergone as great a change as a statue which changed from carved stone to being a real man.

Lewis concludes, “And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues, and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”

Why not today?