It’s not you. It’s definitely me.
No, really, it’s true! It’s me!
You see, when Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourself,” he was talking about me…not you.
I mean, you are mentioned briefly…right there where he references “others”. Yeah, that includes you…as well as everyone else in my life. But, he wasn’t talking TO you. He was talking to ME.
I don’t want to make it all about me, but as you can see, I am the (understood) subject of Paul’s instructions here. So, when I say it’s not you, I mean it…and Paul meant it.
It’s not about what you do or don’t do. It’s not about what you’ve done or haven’t done. It’s not even about what you think or whether you are right or wrong. No, it’s just about me…and my heart.
‘Cause, you see, Paul is saying that what I DO to others reveals how I THINK about myself. It’s less about the humanity around me, and more about whether there is true humility within me. (Because if there is true humility within me, my interactions with humanity will work out fine.)
Humility is one of those things we cannot fake. I mean, humans still try to fake it – we pretend as if we care more about others, and that we consider other people in our lives as better than ourselves. But, the heart cannot hide long. Eventually, selfish ambition and vain conceit eeks out in our words and actions. So, you see, I can’t lie and say that how I behave towards you is not a direct overflow of how I think and feel about myself compared to you.
Truth be told, how I think about myself compared to you has more to do with idol-worship than I would like to admit. Because when I think more highly of myself than I ought, I am mimicking the Enemy who from the Beginning pursued self-elevation and promotion. When my heart is not fully humble, I am not following my Savior, who being in the very nature God, did not think it was God-like to white-knuckle grasp at maintaining His status – but instead, He let it all go, “emptied Himself” of all that He was, in order to become the lowest of all things: dirt. Literally. He wrapped His wonder up, in the dust of the earth. He became human. Even more so, He came to serve.
Stop for a moment with me and think: Jesus not only gave up His throne to walk on dusty roads and lay His head on the rocks beside the Sea of Galilea. He went to Bethlehem…to Israel…to the lepers and the infirmed…to the woman at the well with the checkered past and the complicated present…to tax collectors, simple fishermen, and even to Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilot, and to the cross. He did not consider any of that “beneath” Him, even though it was.
So, what was it all about? What was this stepping down from His throne for a limited confine of stinky, dirty, very very dusty humanity?
It was His perfect humility borne from His genuine love for His Father. Because that’s what Love does: it concerns itself with the “others”.
Don’t get me wrong: there was definitely a goal in this mission. Salvation, redemption, freedom (just to name a few). But even the goal itself was not Christ’s aim. His aim was to please His Father, because He loved His Father. And Jesus knew that selfish ambition, a haughty spirit, and conceit would never please His Father – no matter how much He could try to fake it. Eventually, a wayward sheep would tip the scales, and there would be literal hell to pay. No, a haughty spirit could not respond with grace and hope and help in a moment like that. Jesus knew that, and willingly let go of all that was rightfully His, because pleasing the Father was His heart’s desire – not self-promotion. Not even for the blissful thrill of His own self-satisfaction, knowing He did “good”. Nope, nothing of the sort would suffice to glorify His wonderfully wise Father.
This is LOVE we are talking about here. Only true humility would bring true glory to His Father.
Which is why I want to make sure you know: It’s not you. It’s definitely, most assuredly, without a doubt, me. What I think, say, and do is an overflow of my heart’s desire to please the Father. Without humility, it is impossible to please Him. So, when I am harsh, unkind, prideful, fake, slanderous, gossipy, passive aggressive, boastful, or downright mean as a snake, I am not honoring the Father. And I am definitely not following Jesus’ example. In fact, I hate to admit it, but in these moments of vain conceit, my heart is acting more like the Enemy than my Savior. And that’s a bit sobering.
So, I guess what I’m saying is: Since it’s not so much about you, and almost completely about me, then I need to get my heart back in the right place. I need to re-focus my aim more acutely upon the Savior, who has gone before me and done all things well for the glory of the Father. I need some time to let His love change me – rearrange my heart – in a way that is truly humble. And since I’m human, it’s gonna be a recurring process – a lifelong roller-coaster – as I wake up again in the same dusty frame. So, your patience and love is appreciated.
Tell you what! How about I do the same for you? What if I extend to you the same amount of grace and patience that I know I need? I mean, if you think you need some “re-arranging” too…? Or maybe if you need it one day in the future? How about me and God work on me and my heart, and you and God work on your heart? Oh! And in the meantime, we can keep reminding each other that Jesus has gone before us and showed us the way – and He never gives up on us! How about I choose to serve you out of genuine humility and love, and you serve whatever “others” in your world with love and humility? And let’s just see what God does with all of this.
I wonder if He can accomplish more with our humility and servanthood than we could ever accomplish with our strength and self-congratulations…? I wonder if He will increase, and we will decrease – just as John the Baptist said it should be…? I wonder how many “others” will see a dim reflection of Jesus in a world that desperately needs Him – more than ever before…?
I’ll start us off with a prayer:
“May God teach us that our thoughts, words, and feelings concerning our fellow man are His test of our humility towards Him.” Amen.