What Does Humility Look Like?
15th Sunday after Pentecost
What Does Humility Look Like?
Text: James 2:1-13
What Does Humility Look Like? Does humility look like the Pharisees in the gospel today? They would go to dinner parties and feasts and sit down at the places and positions of honor. If it was a dinner party, they would have sat at the head of the table. If it was a wedding, they would have sat at the head table with the wedding party. If it was a king’s feast, they would have sat down at the royal table. After all, they were Pharisees! Is that humility?
Does humility look like our American celebrities? They scratch and claw for millions of dollars to act in a movie or perform at a concert or simply endorse perfume. They have houses in the most prominent positions. When you drive over that bridge to South Beach or weave through Beverly Hills, you can’t miss their mansions. They fight to have their faces on magazines and billboards. They Tweet foolish comments to get publicity, or they make stupid choices like naming their child North West (yes, Kim Kardashian actually did that). Anything they can do to gain recognition, fame, or money. Is that humility?
Does humility look like our American athletes? They knock out the opponent and then dance around and proclaim, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I am the greatest!” They score a touchdown and spike the ball in their opponent’s face and then stare him down. They raise their arms up and put on shows to soak up the glory. They run around town thinking they can get away with any kind of behavior, steroid use, or these days even murder. Is that humility?
“Of course not!” we say, “That’s not humility!” But do we know better what humility is? What Does Humility Look Like?
Does humility look like the way we treat famous people? Have you ever been close up to a famous person or politician? How about one that you really love? When we see our favorite celebrities or athletes or politicians it is a surreal moment. Our hearts start racing. Our eyes bulge out of their sockets. “Do you see who that is?” we whisper. We push and shove for a picture or an autograph. We peak our heads into the back of the news camera to get on TV, “Hi mom!” “Ah! Finally famous for a moment!” Is that humility?
Does humility look like the way we treat other people at work? We are the sweetest, kindest, most polite, most diligent employee in the world—when our boss is around. But when no one is looking? Well, who needs to work that hard? Who needs to follow all the rules? Why bother being nice to that weird guy who just started working here? Is that humility?
When was the last time you wanted the autograph of the homeless person walking down US 1? When was the last time you wanted your picture taken with the old gentleman scooting around Publix on his motorized wheelchair? Has your heart ever started to race with excitement when you met the Walmart checkout lady? When have you invited to your Christmas party that strange, quiet new person at work who always makes you feel awkward? Is that humility?
All three portions of Scripture this morning have very similar examples for us. Listen to the example from James in the second lesson: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
What would you do if Tim Tebow walked into church on Sunday morning? Or Carrie Underwood? Or Tom Hanks? I’m sure we would all go well out of our way to say hello. “Good morning, Mr. Hanks! So glad to have you here! Wonderful! Here’s a service folder for you. The whole service is printed inside. The bathrooms are around the corner. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee and a snack. I’m thankful you are here to hear God’s Word today!”
But do we do that with every single visitor that walks through these doors? Do we greet with equal excitement every last visitor (or member!) of our church, no matter who they are and what they look like? I guarantee you we don’t. And I don’t either. Is that what humility looks like? I don’t think so.
James continues, “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?”
Isn’t it often the celebrities, the athletes, the politicians, the wealthy people of this world who usually exploit us and sue us and slander us only to become more famous and wealthy? Why treat anyone differently James says? Often it is the people who are poor in wealth who are rich in faith. Why treat anyone differently?
What Does Humility Look Like? Forget celebrities and “important” people for a moment. Does humility look like the way we treat people who are peers and of a similar social standing? Is it humble for parents to hear about their child getting in trouble at school, and the very first reaction is to be angry and snippy with the teacher because there is no way “Junior” would ever do anything wrong? Is it humble to assume there is no way your pastor listens to you, he must be ignoring you and not like you—without ever coming to talk to him about it? Or is it humble when you have a problem with something at our church or our school—there’s something you really don’t like—but all you do is grumble and complain about it. You let your annoyance and anger fester. You even tell a few people how upset you are. But not once do you patiently and lovingly approach the person you are upset with. Not once do you calmly and kindly voice your concern to a leader. Is that humility?
Is it humble to talk and talk and talk about ourselves all day long like we are full of hot air—and then talk about ourselves a little more—but never take time to ever let anyone else talk or ask them about their life? Is it humble for us to flap our lips about every other person, making fun of them, laughing at their mistakes, pointing out how foolish they are as we gossip and destroy reputations? Is it humble to look down on someone because they are different color than you? Is it humble to look down on someone because they are covered with tattoos and piercings? Is it humble to read the news or watch the news and think, “Yuck! What horrible sinners! Thank God I’m not like that!” Is that humility?
James has more words for us: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” If you truly love all other people like you love yourself, then you are obeying God. “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do not commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” If we think we are so much better than other people, let’s remember one thing, James says. If you stumble at even one point and sin once, that makes you a sinner. If you commit adultery, you are a sinner. If you commit murder, you are a sinner. If you lie, you are a sinner. Even one sin makes you a sinner. No one is better than the other because we are all sinking in the same sinful boat.
Clearly we aren’t very good at being humble. I don’t know about you though, but after hearing these words of the Lord today I certainly feel knocked off my personal pedestal. Especially when he says in verse 13, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” It makes my unloving, non-humble se lf want to crawl under a rock.
So What Does Humility Look Like? I think it looks like this . . .
There was a king. A king who had endless land and endless riches and endless glory. He had honor, wealth, power. He had a vast kingdom with countless subjects. But this great king had very troublesome subjects. They thought they were more important than they really were. They were always grumbling and complaining and fighting and angry. Many times these subjects even thought they were more important than the king. How dare they! They deserve death for treason! What would the king do?
Here’s what the king did. He decided to set aside for a while all of his endless riches and glory and honor and power. Instead of stomping all over those arrogant subjects in judgment he wanted to show them mercy. He also wanted to show them what real humility was all about.
First he was born not in a royal palace but in a bare barn. He wasn’t placed in royal sheets on a royal bed, but wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger. He didn’t ride a valiant steed into his capital city, but on a donkey. He lived such a humble life that rarely could one look at him and recognize him as a king. Who is this one who eats with sinners? Who is this who stoops down to wash feet?
But his humility would not end there. He was stripped nearly naked. He was beaten. He was mocked. He was spit on. Then he was crucified.
As he hung with outstretched arms and blood splattered everywhere and open wounds dripping more blood, you stare with a bewildered wonder. This is a king? This is one with honor and glory and riches and power? This is the king of the universe, the one who made the heavens and the earth? Why would he do this? Why would he do this for his subjects who so arrogantly disobeyed him? Why would he die for them?
Because he loves them. It doesn’t matter who it is. You could be white or black, tan or brown, or anything in between. You could have baby-soft skin, elephant-tough skin, wrinkled skin, or tattooed skin. You could be covered with tattoos. You could be covered with guilt. You may have murdered someone. You may have committed adultery. You may be a compulsive liar. You may be an addict. You may be stubborn and arrogant. You may have a big mouth. You might commit big sins, or you might commit little sins. It doesn’t matter because when you cut us open we all bleed the same color—red—the color of the blood that Jesus shed for us.
What Does Humility Look Like? It looks like Jesus. It looks like God in human flesh, stretched out on a cross to save his people.
What else Does Humility Look Like? It looks like a bunch of people responding to the goodness and grace of their God. It looks like people who regularly give up free time and “me” time because God time is more important. It looks like people with bowed heads and folded hands. It looks like people with open Bibles and open hymnals. It looks like people who would rather do anything for the kingdom of God before they ever do anything for themselves.
What Does Humility Look Like? It also looks like a family of believers who truly love each other and care about each other. It looks like people who welcome any and every visitor to their church with loving and open arms. It looks like people who handle problems calmly and patiently. It looks like people who communicate clearly and kindly. It looks like people who are generous, supportive, willing to help at a drop of a hat, and willing to give the shirt off their back. It looks like people who are eager to close their mouths and open their ears. It looks like people who care about anyone and everyone, like people who are unafraid to share their faith with anyone and everyone, like people who want anyone and everyone to be in heaven. It looks like people who love anyone and everyone because no matter who you are—white, black, or brown; young or old; hip and cool or nerdy and weird; big sinner or bad sinner; or anything else in between—no matter who you are you have the same red blood as the Savior who died for us all.
So What Does Humility Look Like? It looks like Jesus. And now it looks like you.
Posted on September 6, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Carrie Underwood, Celebrities, Church, Famous, Humble, Humility, James, James 2, Jesus, Kim Kardashian, Love, Love Your Neighbor, North West, Power, Rich, Sermons, Suffering, Tim Tebow, Tom Hanks, Wealth. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.