One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Have you ever been humiliated? I have been humiliated, and deeply at that, quite a few times in my life, and although these incidents were very painful, I have been grateful because they have proved to be very powerful instruments of change in my life. How? Because I realized it was God cutting me down to size, and eventually I learned that it was better to be humble and then raised, rather than be proud and then made to fall.
So how does one be humble? Let me suggest three ways. One is by not thinking of yourself too often. To quote C. S. Lewis, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” When we don’t think about ourselves too often we avoid the sin of vanity and the need to be constantly praised. Please don’t go the other way and start thinking badly of yourself because that would be insulting God and the wonderful person he has created you to be.
A second way is by thinking more of others. When you stop looking at yourself, you almost automatically start looking at others, and you realize the tremendous pain that most people are in, and you start to want to help. This is, of course, very pleasing to God, who tells us that if we want to be great we have to be servants of all. Please note again (I have said this in previous reflections) that God has nothing against greatness. He just disapproves of some of the methods we use.
A third way, and this is by far the most effective, is by thinking of God very often, and if you can do this all the time, then you will see how humility becomes second nature to you. Is it possible to think of God all the time? Yes. There was a monk called Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection who lived in 17th Century France who developed the practice of the presence of God into a fine art and he lived permanently in the presence of God. You can learn a thing or two from him.
All three ways require us to follow Jesus’ advise to pick up our cross daily and follow him. If we remain conscious of our actions, paying attention to the things that we do that lead to an inflated ego, then we can purposefully prevent that from happening. That is what Jesus means by carrying our cross. It is dying to oneself. And paradoxically, when you die, you live. I end with something Jesus said today: All those who humble themselves will be exalted.
So, it it is exaltation you seek, you know what you do. Be humble.