Last Sunday we talked about greatness in Sunday School. The question, “What keeps you from greatness?” There were a lot of answers ranging from debt to fear to busyness. I even put out my hands to portray a set scales… laundry in one hand and greatness in the other, to show which outweighed the other. Laundry had it. But this morning, I’ve come to the conclusion I can have it both ways. I can have my laundry along with that elusive greatness. And this morning, I see that I am the very thing that’s keeping me from it. Ironically, it’s my inaccurate sense of self-importance that keeps me from greatness.
Micah 6:8 says to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. I believe He says to walk humbly because we need to have an accurate view of ourselves. It’s in Romans 12:3 that we read, “For I say, through the grace given to me to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The truth is, if you think too highly of yourself, you cannot practice justice and mercy. Because if you believe yourself to be holier than thou and that you can do no wrong, then you may think that perhaps the person collecting benefits from the government should be out there working like you do, right? And if you think you’re so high and mighty, then just maybe the person who is doing something wrong deserves every bad thing that comes their way, right? Because you’re not doing that wrong thing. The ugly truth is if your opinion of yourself is overly elevated (and I’m speaking for myself here), then you will not be able to do justice and love mercy. It’s impossible, and I should know. Because I’m living proof.
We can simply walk with God, or we can walk humbly with God. It’s our choice. I wish I could say I chose the latter, but for years now, I believe I simply walked with Him. And highly, I might add. Because I walked and talked with God, and attained all the knowledge I could. But rather than apply it to my life, I tucked it all away inside my head. And that caused me to feel good about myself… all that stored up knowledge. And because I was walking with God, who is Greatness, well, there were times in which I could not help but feel as if some of His greatness rubbed off on me. There’s no denying that sometimes I have sat back feeling smug in the knowledge I’ve acquired, feeling oh, so enlightened. In fact, there have been times that I’ve felt pretty, darn great. But not about Him… about me!
So how do I fight this? It’s evident that knowledge puffs up, so what can I do? Fortunately, God showed me what it is that I lack. It’s something called wisdom, and He offers it to us all. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5. I see that knowledge without wisdom is useless. Because they work together. Wikipedia states that wisdom is the judicious study and application of knowledge. And so, that’s one of my problems. I haven’t applied what I’ve learned.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17
Envy and self-seeking are not new conditions of the heart. They’re worldly and they’re as old as the hills. It’s in our nature to covet what someone else has, and to desire what we don’t have. Jealousy comes naturally to us. But it’s earthy, sensual and demonic. And it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden, and the first sin. It goes back to Cain and Abel, and the first murder. It goes back to Jacob and Esau, and determining who would rule the other. It goes back to the hatred of Joseph’s brothers, when their father loved him best. And it goes back to the disciples. They had a worldly way of looking at things, too, as there was rivalry among them. They argued about who would be the greatest. Jesus said, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And when the disciples’ mother was self-seeking and ambitious for her two sons, the others were moved to indignation (self-righteous indignation, I’m sure). Jesus said, “But whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Wisdom is thrown at us every day. But there’s worldly wisdom and there’s godly wisdom. The two do not go hand in hand. Because what the world says is great is the complete opposite of what God says is great. The world says look out for number one, but Jesus says to look out for them. The world says the more money you have the greater you are, but Jesus says to give it all away. The world esteems those who are wealthy and famous, snubbing those who don’t reign as high. But Jesus says blessed are the poor. And Jesus, who was the greatest to ever walk this earth, did not come to be served, but to be Servant. He is our example.
So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15.
Sunday, I wondered, “Laundry… or greatness?” Well, I wanted greatness. And now I know, I can have both. Rather than resent the duty of laundry, it can be an act of service I humbly provide to those I love the most. If my attitude is lowly, and if my heart is not lifted up, then in the eyes of my Lord and Teacher, laundry is greatness. Becoming servant to my family and loved ones is what will make me great in His kingdom. I simply need God’s wisdom to apply all the truths I’ve learned. And then, as I walk humbly with Him along life’s highway, I will be changed through the process. I’ll be able to accurately and soberly assess myself because I’ll have glimpsed God’s glory. And so, when I am not lifted up… I will be able to live out Micah 6:8, serving God by doing justly and loving mercy. Because God will direct my path as I humbly follow Him. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way… all the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth. Psalm 25:9-10
As time goes by, I’ll come to understand that it’s not at all what I think that will make me great. But the complete opposite. Because God’s wisdom is so different from my own.
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2