At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Let me ask you a few questions. Be honest in your responses. Do you think you are smarter than everybody else? Do you believe you are better than everybody else? Do you want to BE better than everybody else? Do you seek positions of honor and recognition? Are you stubborn? Are you complacent? Do you get hurt easily? Are you very critical? Are you disobedient? Are you vain?
Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance you suffer from the sin of pride, which is the mother of all sins, because it usually leads to all other sins. It was the sin of Lucifer, the angel of light. The most beautiful of all angels, he dreamt of ascending the heavens and raising his throne above that of God’s, but he was sent crashing down to the dark recesses of the pit. And that is the danger. That although we try to go up, we end up going down.
What is the antidote? Humility, obviously. But how do we attain this humility? First, we need to understand what humility is and what it isn’t. Some people believe that humility is putting ourselves down: saying that we aren’t smart, or aren’t pretty, or aren’t anything good. This isn’t true. We all need to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and be secure in what God made us and the gifts he has blessed us with. So humility is not thinking less OF ourselves. Rather it is thinking less ABOUT ourselves. Take the focus off us and put it on somebody else, and we’re on our way to being humble.
Another way towards humility is realizing our dependence on God. Without him, we are nothing. Sometimes the best among us fail to realize this as we notice in today’s passage, where the disciples went to Jesus with the question: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? They meant among them! It was a shocking question, especially when you consider who these men were. They were uneducated, simple folk for the most part, who had been picked out of modest surroundings by Jesus because they were humble. Yet, now they had begun to think no end of themselves.
A third way is keeping something that Peter wrote in mind at all times. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). This is something that I remind myself of whenever I feel pride creeping in, and that happens more often than I would like to admit. For instance, when some of you comment about how good these reflections are, it is hard not to preen. So, I remind myself that when we are proud we set ourselves up in opposition to God and only a fool would want that to happen. The wise person would know that he needs a superabundance of grace, so it is best to remain humble. So, I immediately pass the credit on to God.
So, let’s try to be humble, shall we? But then let us be careful not to become proud that we are so humble!
May the Spirit be with you.