Humility is the fruit of gratitude. We all know the feeling when someone does something special for us or gives us something significant—we are indebted to them. The most appropriate response we can make is to say thank-you because we are touched and humbled by their generosity.
That’s the way it is with our Father. As we think about our dependency upon Him and His provision for us, we are filled with gratitude and the humility that flows from it. The difference, of course, is God’s giving is on a much grander scale and it is ongoing. Therefore, humility isn’t to be a temporary response, it is a state we are called to live in.
This is a challenge because most of us are better in the sprint than the long run. We mean well—it’s just time, distance and the activities of the day have a way of diluting our good intentions and humble attitudes. What we prayed about and purposed in the morning is often a faded memory by nightfall.
We’re still working our way through a pandemic that has forcefully reminded us of our dependency upon God. If we have been paying attention at all, we’ve been humbled. The challenge is how to maintain this humility as the pandemic lessens its grip and we return to normality (and with it the temptation to think we’re in control).
How do we do this? One way is to slow our lives down so we are living life the way God gives it—one day at a time. Nothing will kill humility quicker than the idea that we are somehow guaranteed the future—we’re not, so we need to stop acting like it. Learning to live within a day will sharpen our focus, increase our joy, and diminish our anxiety.
That returns us to gratitude. If humility is the fruit of it (and it is), then growing in gratitude means we grow in humility. Slowing our lives down and changing our perspective about the future gives us the opportunity to be more appreciative in the present and as Abraham Heschel observed, It is gratefulness that makes the soul great. It’s hard not to be humble when you heart is full of gratitude.
Something else that can assist us are living witnesses. Israel had their feasts, stone markers, jar of manna and budding rod. The church has the Lord’s Supper and baptism. It we are awake and aware, both the Supper and baptism testify to important spiritual realities our identities are rooted in: we are people Christ died for who have been raised with Him to live a new life to the glory of God. We are not our own.
Maybe there is something in our lives that serves as a living witness. For me, it’s an old vegetable bin in our garage. It belonged to my grandparents (my grandfather used it to store odds and ends). Their grandchildren were allowed to carve their names and the date on it. Mine is from June 9, 1967.
It’s a powerful witness piece because I walk by it every day and it reminds me of the ten-year-old boy who at the time he scratched his initials into the wood, had only the tiniest idea of God. I grew up in a good family, but that didn’t include church or any kind of spiritual instruction. Yet that didn’t keep God from finding me and drawing me to Him. Over the years, He’s blessed me in more ways than I can know or tell. I’m humbled by how good He has been to me. The vegetable bin is my Ebeneezer. It reminds I’ve come this far by the grace of God.
Whether we have an Ebeneezer or not, that’s the story of all of us, isn’t it? We’ve made to this point in life by the grace of God. To be moved by and mindful of this reality is to live in humility.
What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)