The Path of HumilityMatthew 20:25-28Theme: Servanthood.This week’s lessons remind us that following Christ requires that we learn to be humble.
LessonAnother burden of pride is self-struggle. A fourth burden we are delivered from if we walk in humility is struggle, struggle somehow to “make it” or “gain recognition” in this world. You will understand, I am sure, that I am not encouraging a lazy spirit or an indifferent attitude in Christ’s service. In his service there is always need for hard work, diligence, willingness to suffer, and great perseverance. But that is a different thing from the kind of struggle for self-advancement that flows from pride. The apostle Paul said, “…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). But in the same letter, indeed just one chapter later, he wrote, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11).
Jeremiah Burroughs was a seventeenth-century Puritan who reflected on the strange lack of contentment he saw about him in the church. He wrote a book about it: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. He explained a lack of contentment as failure to see ourselves as we truly are, which is to say that a lack of contentment flows from a lack of humility. His cure was to be steeped in the teaching of Christ, knowing: (1) that in ourselves we are nothing; (2) that we deserve nothing; (3) that we can do nothing; (4) that, indeed, we are worse than nothing, since sin pits us against the good; (5) that if we perish, it will be no loss; and, therefore, (6) that our chief wisdom consists in the denial of self and the taking up of our cross in Christ’s service. Burroughs wrote, “There is never any man or woman so contented as a self-denying man or woman. No one ever denied himself as much as Jesus Christ did: he gave his cheeks to the smiters, he opened not his mouth, he was as a lamb when he was led to the slaughter,
he made no noise in the street. He denied himself above all, and was willing to empty himself, and so he was the most contented that ever any was in the world. The nearer we come to learning to deny ourselves as Christ did, the more contented we shall be.”1
Burroughs was right in exalting contentment as a Christian virtue. So long as we are proud we shall always judge that our status and rewards in life are less than we deserve, and we will be constantly striving to grasp what we judge to be our due. And we will be unhappy! If we bow before Christ, we will marvel at how greatly he has blessed us, whatever we have, and we will rest in that. Paul said, “…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13).
So I say again: If we are to learn humility (which me must do if we are walking in the path marked out for us by Christ), we must begin with God and see everything in relation to him, rather than in relation to ourselves. That is, we must acknowledge and embrace the fact that this is a God-centered, and not a man-centered, universe.
1 Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Edinburgh and Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1964), pp. 89-90. Original edition 1648.
What is the difference between self-struggle and biblical diligence?
According to Jeremiah Burroughs, what are the six aspects of a life steeped in the teaching of Christ?
Further StudyRead Jeremiah Burrough’s excellent book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Call 1-800-956-2644 to order a copy.
Scripture MemoryMemorize Philippians 4:12-13.