Humility-Based Care

Augustine on humility

You are the expert on yourself.  No one knows you like you do.  You have the best and most intimate understanding of how your body feels, the state of your soul, and your emotional well-being.

I think that’s why when someone else tries to tell us we shouldn’t be hurting, either physically and/or spiritually, that it only tends to increase our need for care and comfort.  Maybe you’ve also had the experience of another person trying to one-up your pain, as if what they experienced was worse than you.  They just don’t get that pain is personal, as if it’s a one-size-fits-all.

Invalidating a person’s state of being does no one any good.  It happens because of pride and a lack of humility.

Imagine going to see a doctor who turns out to be arrogant in his approach.  He doesn’t really listen to you.  He just gives a quick exam and offers his diagnosis with a regimen of more pills to take.  You’re left sitting there while he’s off to another patient, colonizing another person’s mind and emotions with his expertise.

I’m not giving doctors a hard knock.  My current family physician is just the opposite of what I described; she’s a listening professional who offers an insightful plan of care.  But it’s likely that you, like me, have had that occasional experience of the doctor full of him/herself with all the right answers on your pain and situation.

You may have also had the unfortunate experience of having a pastor, therapist, or counselor assess your situation with little information and even smaller compassion.  Like writing a script for pills, they give you a few Bible verses and tell you to quit sinning and live obediently.

If pride and arrogance are the original sin, then the remedy to that malady is humility.  No matter who we are – whether doctors, pastors, laypersons, patients, or whomever – we are meant and designed by our Creator God to live a humble life.  That means we are to both give and receive humility-based care.

Humility is the cornerstone to every good thing in this life.  Jesus said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, NIV)

The door of God’s kingdom swings-open on the hinges of humility.

The Apostle Paul, seeking to follow his Master Jesus in his teaching and humility said:

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NLT)

Basic human interaction with one another is grounded in humility.

The old prophet made his expectations clear:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NRSV)

Life is truly life when it is humility-based.

Therefore, caring for another person is not a simple linear matter of offering your opinion or expertise; it is believing that the one needing care is the expert on herself.  The caregiver has as much to learn from the care-seeker.  The beauty of humility-based care is that two people discover together how to grow, thrive, and flourish in a situation where it isn’t currently happening.  Breakthroughs occur in the soil of humility, when the care-seeker comes out of the darkness and into the light through mutual discovery and insight.

We live with the confidence of the Psalmist:

“He [God] leads humble people to do what is right, and he teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25:9, GW)

In the end it’s God that heals, not you, me, or anyone else.  That God chooses to use us to bring his care to others ought to elicit the utmost of humility within us.

The Seven Deadly Vices (Sins)

            Being aware of both vice and virtue in our personal lives, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, families, and churches can create an environment of trust, love, fellowship, and enjoyment.  Intentionally cultivating virtue, while identifying and forsaking vice, allow for a thriving community who attends to the common good of all.
            It’s likely that you have heard of “the seven deadly sins.”  In medieval Christianity, these were vices to avoid at all costs because they eroded personal integrity and poisoned the social community.  A “vice” is a bad habit which corrupts character and debases society.  Today we rarely, if ever, use the word “vice.”  City police departments still have “Vice Squads” which investigate illegal gambling rings and try to deal with prostitution.
            The early church eventually formed a short list of the most corrosive vices, the seven deadly sins, which were considered the most heinous desires/actions of all.  They are:
Lust
 
Lust is an intense desire, coupled with lack of mental self-control, which is manifested in pursuing that desire in the heart.  It is, especially, to have a passion for someone that is not meant for you, i.e. another person’s spouse.  Lust is mental adultery.  Lust leers at and indulges daydreams of another person, with only selfish ideas and no real concern for the other.
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28, NIV)
 
“Run away from adolescent cravings. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22, CEB)
 
Gluttony
 
Whereas lust is mostly lack of mental self-control, gluttony is the lack of bodily self-control. Gluttony doesn’t stop eating, buying, talking, drinking, or binging.  It only excessively indulges to the point of physical and/or relational sickness.  Addiction is the modern-day gluttony – it consumes to the point where it cannot control the consumption any more.  The thing desired and indulged becomes the master.
“When you sit down to dine with a ruler, carefully consider what is in front of you.  Place a knife at your throat to control your appetite.  Don’t long for the ruler’s delicacies; the food misleads.” (Proverbs 23:1-3, CEB)
 
“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, CEB)
 
Greed
 
Money. Money. More money – is the mantra of the greedy person.  It is to have an inordinate desire and pursuit of wealth.  Just as sex and food are good, but have their proper boundaries, so money is both good and necessary.  But money is powerful in more ways than one.  It can take over a person’s life in such a way that charging exorbitant interest, rent, or price gouging is justified by satisfying the greed.  The greedy person lives every waking moment for leveraging wealth to get more wealth.
“People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, CEV)
 
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)
 
Sloth
 
Sloth is more than laziness.  It is failing to do good when it is in your power and ability to do so.  To be slothful is to be indifferent to the great need of the world.  Whereas the previous sins are more active in the pursuit of some desire, sloth is passive, not wanting to get involved in making a difference.  The slothful always have an excuse why they can’t participate; they expect everyone else to do the work.  The irony is that for all of Ebenezer Scrooge’s hard work and thrift, he was really a sloth who had no intention of improving the condition of humanity, depending on poor houses and work farms to do all the work.  It took supernatural means to get him to think differently.
Don’t be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord. Be happy in your confidence, be patient in trouble, and pray continually. Share what you have with God’s people who are in need. Be hospitable.” (Romans 12:11-13, GWT)
 
“Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master.” (Colossians 3:23, CEV)
 
Anger
 
As with most things in life, anger has its proper place.  We ought to be angry in the face of evil perpetrators.  Anger motivates us to not be slothful, but helpful.  But excessive selfish anger is a vice.  Whereas righteous anger seeks to help a victimized person or group, sinful anger is fueled by hatred for another.  Whether it is a violent verbal decapitation of another, or a deep smoldering feeling which only seethes with hatred, anger destroys relationships.
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NLT)
 
“Stop being angry!  Turn from your rage!  Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.” (Psalm 37:8, NLT)
 
Envy
 
Envy and lust are kissing cousins.  They both traffic in excessive desire for what they don’t possess.  The subtle difference has more to do with the object of the affection.  Lust leers at longs for a person who belongs to someone else.  Envy fixes its gaze on a material possession or a respected position which someone else has.  It is to have a passionate pursuit of taking over someone else’s job or keeping up with Jones’s.
“Envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV)
 
“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (James 3:16, NRSV)
 
Pride
 
Many people consider pride as the original sin which gave birth to all other vices.  Pride is to have an over-inflated view of one’s opinions, thoughts, and self.  Pride has an excessive understanding of itself.  The proud person truly believes that if only other people believed what they believed, did what they told them to do, and followed their advice and strategy that the world and the church would be a better place to live.  Every antagonist in the movies, comics, and classic literature are full of themselves.  They justify stepping on others to achieve what they think is the greater good of imposing their agenda in the situation.  Its no wonder that in the Bible Satan is the ultimate antagonist.
“If you respect the Lord, you will also hate evil.  I hate pride and bragging, evil ways and lies.” (Proverbs 8:13, NCV)
 
“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:3, ESV)
 
“Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” (Romans 12:16, MSG)
 
            The seven deadly sins mostly live in the shadows, in the secrecy and darkness of one’s own heart.  Yet, they do come out and manifest themselves in bad behavior.  Long before an a hurtful action of sin is committed, it has spent time incubating in the darkness waiting for its chance to make the desire real.
            We cannot hold one another accountable if we do not share the things which are in our hearts.  None of these vices can exist when exposed to the light of confession.  That is why it is so very important to have safe places within the church in which people can share all their desires and their struggles.
How will you respond to the seven deadly sins?
Are there safe places and people for you to talk about your inner struggles?
In what ways and/or behaviors do you see these vices being manifested in the church?

 

What do you think can be done about it?

Accepting the True Self

walking with a cane

I live with chronic low back issues.  Twelve years ago I was in a car accident, and my back has never quite been the same.  On most days I can function well enough to do most of the things I need to do.  The pain is typically minimal.  But there are days when the pain spikes and my mobility is so limited that I can barely walk across the room.  After my initial injury, the stubborn German heritage thing kicked-in to my inner dialogue and I refused to admit how debilitated I really was.  One day, in a determination to go shopping at Target with my wife, I opted for not using a cane to walk because, dad gum it, “I’m not an invalid.”  But I could barely walk from the car into the store.  Walking very slowly, some obnoxious dude in his car became impatient with my parking lot slowness and honked, yelled at me to hurry the f**k up, and angrily flipped the bird at me when he was able to finally get moving.

In such situations it is more than tempting to just focus on the jerks around us and, so, never take a look at ourselves.  Although Mr. Jerk was a first-class detriment to me and his behavior cannot be excused, he obviously did not know that I was only moving as fast as I could, which was a snail’s pace.  He did not know my situation, and maybe he wouldn’t have cared.  Yet, here is my takeaway from the experience, because I can’t change Mr. Jerk; I can only change myself:  I was not accepting my real condition and was not being true to who I was.  I was posturing and pretending to be okay when I was not.  And, it turns out, once I embraced my limitations and started using a cane in public, people were quite sympathetic and the parking lot jerks disappeared.  In fact, I noticed parents instructing their kids to be careful around me, cars began patiently waiting, and I even had lots of interesting conversations with other hurting people – all because I stopped putting up a false image of myself.

Most people are just trying to do the best they can under the circumstances they find themselves in.  They want to carry their own weight without being dependent on others.  They desire to contribute, and not to leech off others.  Yes, there are real jerks out there; we all know a few.  But we’re all in this human condition together, and must learn to negotiate our relations with each other based on truth, not falsehood.  I was doing no one any favors, especially my own self, by putting up a faux exterior on how I was really doing.  I drove my poor wife nuts.  She shares neither my gender nor my barbarian ancestry and had no sympathy for my denial of disability.  I wasn’t winning any Academy Awards for my portrayal of a got-it-all-under-control-don’t-need-anybody’s-help Mr. Macho Healthy Guy.  By the way, just so you know, Chuck Norris has never won an Academy Award, because the dude wasn’t acting.  No false front, man.  I don’t think anybody else could be Walker, Texas Ranger.  Stare down.  Roundhouse kick.  Badass.  It’s not really a character.  It’s Chuck Norris just being Chuck Norris.  If I tried to be Chuck Norris I would probably look like my sister’s pathetic attempts at being Billy Jack when we were kids.  Not gonna work.

Chuck Norris

We have a word for people who try to act one way but are really another:  hypocrite.  This is exactly why the Pharisees in the New Testament Gospels were vilified by Jesus.  They put up a plastic image of themselves.  They did not take a good hard look at their insides.  They kept up appearances, kind of like when families pull into the church parking lot fighting like cats and dogs, but enter the church building all smiles and looking fine.  That kind of stuff is soul-draining and keeps us at arms-length from people who could accept us for who we really are, warts and all.  Maybe I have a thing about parking lots, or maybe parking lots just end up being dens of iniquity for all the pretenders of the world.  Anyway, whatever the case, I think you get my drift.  Mr. Jerk isn’t always the insensitive guy freely exposing his middle finger.  Whenever we deny our authentic and real selves and try to hide from others through air-brushing our weaknesses and sins, we become what we most hate in other people.

So, keep it real, man.  Use the cane, for God’s sake.  Let’s stop trying to be someone we are not, and discover the person God created us to be.  The best people to be around are the people who are the most comfortable in their own skin, kind of like Chuck Norris.  Give that false self a roundhouse kick.

Masters of Small Worlds

 
 
Americans have tremendous faith in themselves. In 1950, a Gallup poll asked high school seniors: “Are you a very important person?” 12 percent said yes. Gallup asked the same question in 2005 and 80 percent said, “Yes, I am a very important person.” Time magazine asked Americans:  “Are you in the top one percent of earners?” 19 percent of Americans said they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Americans rank 25th in the world in math, but if you ask most Americans if they are good at math, they often say “yes.”  As columnist David Brooks has said: “We are number-one in the world at thinking we are really good at math.”
 
            We Americans are also certain about our faith, despite the contrary.  When Jay Leno was still hosting the Tonight Show he frequently did “man-on-the street” interviews, and one night he collared some young people to ask them questions about the Bible. “Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” he asked two college-age women. One replied, “Freedom of speech.” Leno said to the other, “Complete this sentence: Let he who is without sin ____.” Her response was, “have a good time.” Leno then turned to a young man and asked: “Who, according to the Bible, was eaten by a whale?” The confident answer was, “Pinocchio.”
 
            Yeah, I understand that we will quickly say that all the aforementioned people are not you and I, to which proves my point:  we are much too often full of ourselves to see that we are really ignorant about a lot of things, and too proud to admit it.
 
            When it comes to church ministry, we can be so certain about what needs to happen based upon our clear understanding of the Bible, that all other ideas, thoughts, and discussion is ended.  We can be so convinced that our experiences, our understanding of the good life, and our friendships are the way it should be in the world that we superimpose our paradigm on every other culture, church, and individual.  We are right; they are wrong.
 
            It is the height of hubris to believe that my (our) interpretation is theonly way to look at Holy Scripture.  It is the pinnacle of ignorance to think that my church, my friends, my geographical place, and the kind of life I live is the right way to live.  All other ways of viewing Scripture and life are wrong.
 
            When we hear or make statements like “The American people want…” and “Everybody in the church thinks…” then we have become masters of very small worlds, projecting our smallness and insecurity onto others who do not share our predilections.
 
            Here is my conviction:  I don’t know.  The truth is that I don’t know what I should be doing half the time in this life, even as a pastor in a church, which is why I am constantly and continually running to God in prayer with all the humility and openness to the Spirit that I can muster.  It’s also why I keep interacting with people of other cultures very different from my own and seek to read Scripture with them because I don’t have the corner on how everything should be done.
 
            Ignorance is bred by only interacting with my small circle of friends and family and excluding all others.  Sinful pride is the inevitable result when I climb on an ant hill, believing it to be the mountain that oversees all creation.  No one individual, one church, one denomination, one culture, or one geographical place has all the answers to how life should work, how church should operate, and how Christianity should be lived.
 

 

            So, let’s not put our provincial ignorance on display by reading our Bibles in isolation from the wisdom of the early church fathers, the experience of medieval mystics, the perspective of the sixteenth-century Reformers, the passion of nineteenth-century revivalists, and the insight of contemporary cultures different from our own.  Let’s humbly bow before the Master of the universe, King Jesus, and allow God’s Holy Spirit to penetrate our pride long enough to learn the ways of Christ’s love for all people.

Biblical Colonialism

 
 
There is a certain kind of idolatry that is rampant within many churches today.  It masquerades as godliness, but is really full of dead men’s bones.  As with most idolatrous behavior, it is not easily discerned or detected by those who practice it.  This is why it is insidious and dark.  The sin I am referring to is what I will call “biblical colonialism.”
 
            What I mean by this term is the activity of some believers and churches to approach the text of Holy Scripture with the intent of doing hermeneutical conquering.  That is, coming at the text of the Bible in such a way as to determine the right interpretation and defend that interpretation with life and lips to the point of holy war.  This is to reify in a position that is believed to be the right and true teaching of the Word of God.  The Bible then inevitably becomes elevated to such a level of being the Trinity:  Father, Son, and Holy Scripture.  The Spirit of God is replaced with what such colonizing persons believe to be the only plain and authoritative truth of the Bible.  And they will not be dissuaded even by the blessed Holy Spirit to change their position.  They will die for it, or, at least, go on (un)holy campaigns and wage battle after battle defending their idolatrous behavior.  It is, some Christians believe, the biblical high ground.  But is it?
 
            Instead, could it be more of the modernist impulse to have answers for everything?  It seems to me that the Enlightenment project of sheer rationalist thought has left in its wake a draining of all mystery; the belief that every biblical problem can be answered; the endeavor and even compulsion to understand every cultural, social, and political issue through the modernist lens of sheer objective knowledge.  In other words, it is the aggressive attempt to colonize the Bible and conquer it so that it serves my need to have clear black and white answers to every issue there is, as if this is the real task of the church.  It is to try and master the text of Scripture, instead of putting oneself in the humble position of being mastered by the Scripture.  If we are so certain about our interpretations of Scripture, then no wonder so many women feel oppressed by the church and even more gay individuals will have nothing to do with the evangelical church, not to mention the wholesale flock of entire generations of young persons from institutional church life.  It is the height of hubris to think that when we get beyond the core cardinal doctrines of the faith as expressed in historic Christianity that we can colonize the Bible and conquer it so that our interpretations on a range of issues are on par with God himself.  It is to value hermeneutics over love; to esteem interpretation over grace; to seek conquered territory over hospitality.
 
            Perhaps alongside the commonly identified idols of money, power, and sex we must also include the Bible itself.  After all, Holy Scripture is the revelation of God – not God himself.  To treat it otherwise is to miss its central message of redemption in Christ, and the great need that the entire world has to come to grips with the person and work of Jesus – not with my interpretation of particular Bible verses that are ancillary to people knowing Christ.  King Jesus is the rightful ruler of the universe – not me or my supposed conquest of Bible passages that purport to have all the correct and right answers to all of life’s problems and woes.
 

 

            If I am “right,” the only real posture to take for many believers and churches today is to prostrate ourselves before the God who is jealous for his Name to be set apart as the only one to be worshiped and adored.  There is a great need for repentance – not for other people, but for us who claim to know Christ and serve him.  Instead of belly-aching and complaining that the world should be serving the interests of evangelical Christianity, we have desperate need to come back to the ancient practice of seeing the church as the continuing presence of Christ on earth and serving the world’s people.  Only then will we reverse the curse of biblical colonialism and spread the good news of new life in Christ.

Self-Deception


Back in the day we kids used to say to someone who was full of himself: “well, aren’t you just hot snot!”  The problem was that we usually thought more of ourselves than we should have and took the moral high ground even as we detected pride in another.  The fact is we are all targets for the temptation of self-deception.  King Saul in the Old Testament was the epitome of one who paid lip service to God and thought himself faithful, but never could bring himself to see that he was a disobedient clod and in need of coming clean about his true character (1 Samuel 15:1-26).
Many followers of Jesus are surprised when they end up in trouble.  They never saw the major inconsistencies of their lives, and did not take the preacher’s sermons and a well-meaning friend’s rebuke to heart because the message was really needed for “that other person.”  Too many of us Christians actually traffic in lies rather than truth through offering rationalizations, assessing blame on others for our problems, and evading responsibility.
When confronted squarely with our own wrongdoing, instead of trying to wriggle out of it by believing we aren’t as bad as other people, there is a much better and biblical response:  own up to it, and receive God’s grace.  The basis of grace is the cross of Christ, and that grace is most often dispensed through others.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian who resisted the evil of Hitler and chose a life of radical discipleship, had this to say:    
“A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.  As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light.”

 

            If we easily confess to God something that we would never think of sharing with a trusted friend or pastor, we are back to thinking too highly of ourselves and of the opinions of other people and not highly enough of God’s grace designed to shoo away the snakes of pride that slither about our feet.
            We must face our own addiction to self and a false self-image, and create a love for the truth of grace.  Deception can come in many forms, but the self-deceiver is in a special need for healthy spiritual introspection.  Are you willing to speak honestly about your own struggles, weaknesses, and shortcomings?  Or will you rely on reading a wimpy blog post to substitute for genuine and honest confession?
            God is glorified not when we are perfect or give the illusion of perfection; He is glorified in the struggle to live a holy life with a group of like-minded believers who have each others backs.  Wise church and ministry leaders will take care to cultivate a culture of confession throughout its organization.  So, may you have the courage to pursue hard after grace and find in Christ and his people newness of life.

Real, or Fake?


Some things are pretty unrealistic.  But for most things in life, you often cannot tell a fake by the external appearance.  When it comes to Christianity and the true worship of God a person might give a good outward performance, but actually not be the real deal because he or she is full of bitterness and death on the inside with a heart far from God.
What is sobering for devoted believers in God is the reality that the Church may have people who are religious on the outside but not really be a Christ follower on the inside.  Having all the outward signs of faith without an inward reality is like putting perfume in a vase – it might smell like flowers but the flowers aren’t really there.  
            At the heart of Jesus Christ’s teaching is to be humble and avoid pride by not comparing ourselves to others and wondering if we are getting our due attention; rather we are to compare ourselves only to Christ and the Word of God and, so, become truly meek and humbly serve others out of a genuine heart that loves God.  What we proclaim and profess cannot be separated from who we are.
Jesus condemned the religiously committed Pharisees because they put heavy burdens on people and were unwilling to help them carry those burdens.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry he approached the crowds with the understanding that they were following him for a variety of reasons, some noble and some not so noble.  Some of those people heard of Jesus and genuinely wanted to be healed.  Some followed him because their hearts burned within them when he spoke and they wanted to know God better.  Some desired a true way of living and saw in Jesus fresh hope for their lives.  Yet others followed Jesus around wanting to see the next cool miracle, to maybe get a free handout, or just to hear him so that they could tell all their friends that they heard him speak and saw him heal.  Jesus was always trying to press and challenge the vast crowds of people into a genuine, real righteousness from the heart that would submit to God’s kingdom.  But the Pharisees and teachers of the law kept undermining Jesus, talking behind his back, and tried to stir up resentment against him.  
            The Pharisees’ motives were not to help people know God better through service, but to just talk a good line.  Interestingly, Jesus did not chastise them for what they taught (Matthew 23:1-12), but leveled condemnation on them for not helping people live-out their obligations.  The Pharisees knew their bibles and had a high view of Scripture.  The problem was not so much their doctrine but that they did not practice what they preached.  It isn’t so much what the Pharisees taught as howthey taught it – it was neither gentle, nor had any grace.  People need one another in order to truly live for God, but if there is a double-standard that exists among folks in the church then there is only heavy loads that aren’t getting carried because some individuals think they are above helping others or think too little of themselves and believe God could not use them.  In both cases the person declares “someone should do something!”  Someone should give, someone should pray, someone should visit, someone should tell that person about Christ, someone should help.  To which Jesus would say that someone is you!
            Jesus also condemned the Pharisees because they loved to do things for a show, for the attention.  Everything the Pharisees and the teachers of the law did was for others to see.  They thought they deserved the accolades of others.  We can be hard on the Pharisees, yet whenever we plaster on fake smiles, only obey and serve when others are looking, and/or pretend like everything is just peachy keen when we are dying inside then we have fallen under the same condemnation and are in need of putting aside caring so much about how we look to others and grieve, mourn and wail asking the God of grace to have mercy on us.  We can be so obsessed about the right thing to say that we never say what is really on the inside because we think it isn’t spiritual enough and we fear looking bad.
The Pharisees also were men who sought status and prestige.  Respect and honor was everything to many Pharisees which is why they wanted the positions of prominence and insisted on being recognized for whatever they did in the synagogue.  In public they insisted that the people respect them in their greeting and acknowledgements.  They did not want to look bad, ever.
            But facades will not do for Jesus.  Pharisees are very predictable because they always act with the spectator in mind, and seek to elicit praise and respect everywhere they go.  To Pharisees, it does not matter what is on the inside as long as the outside looks good.  In his autobiography, Be Myself, Warren Wiersbe writes about his first church building project as a young pastor in Indiana. He and the church’s building committee were working with a church architect. At one of the committee meetings, Wiersbe asked the architect, “Why do we need such an expensive, high ceiling in the auditorium? We’re not building a cathedral. Why not just build an auditorium with a flat room and then put a church façade in the front of the building?” Wiersbe writes that in a very quiet voice, the architect replied, “Pastor, the building you construct reflects what a church is and what a church does. You don’t use façades on churches to fool people. That’s for carnival sideshows. The outside and the inside must agree.”
So, what do we do when we realize that the outside of our lives and the inside don’t match?  We become humble and meek just like Jesus.  We are to revere and honor God, not people.  Putting people on a pedestal is not good because they are just people.  Instead of the mentality “look how great I am!” we are to treat everyone as an equal because at the heart of thinking people owe me something is the idea that I am better than the other person.  The answer to that attitude is to adopt Christ’s meekness and humility.  The zeal to feel important and respected is to be transformed into the desire to serve others.
            The way up is down.  We are to descend, not ascend, into greatness.  So, what does humble meekness look like?  Taylor University is a Christian college in Indiana. Years ago, an African student, Sam, was going to be enrolling in their school. This was before it was commonplace for international students to come to the U.S. to study. He was a bright young man with great promise, and the school felt honored to have him. When he arrived on campus, the President of the University took him on a tour, showing him all the dorms. When the tour was over, the President asked Sam where he would like to live. The young man replied, “If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.” Over the years the president had welcomed thousands of Christian men and women to the campus, and none had ever made such a request.  “If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.” That’s the kind of meekness Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes.
If there is a job that no one wants to do, I’ll do that job.
If there’s a kid that no one wants to eat lunch with, I’ll eat with that kid.
If there’s a piece of toast that’s burnt, I’ll take that piece.
If there’s a parking space that’s far away from the church, I’ll park in that space.
If there’s a need is someone’s life, I’ll meet that need.
If there’s a hardship someone has to endure, I’ll take that hardship.
If there’s a sacrifice someone needs to make, I’ll make that sacrifice.
            The greatest among you will be your servant.  Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  This applies not only to individuals but to groups of people and churches as well.  If we never get out of our comfortable little band of people, then we need to ask ourselves why not?  If we never look beyond the four walls of the church building in order to serve someone, we need to ask ourselves why not?  If we have a chronic critical spirit toward someone then we need to ask ourselves if the genuine article is within us?
            The kingdom of God is not a matter of outward eating and drinking and displays of spirituality but is a matter of inner righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  May we all serve one another deeply from a heart of love and grace.