One special quality that truly characterizes all the great men in the bible is the gift of humility. When we take time and read the lives of men whom God worked with, we will observe that none was full of pride and God blessed and raised them to higher positions.
These great men though they are deeply humble, yet God raises them to higher positions that we still read about them and talk about them today.
Humility is a virtue that we often neglect today but a highly prized asset that marks us out as the children of God. Therefore, according to Jesus Christ, whoever humbles himself shall be made great.
In His ministry, Jesus constantly lashes out against the Pharisees because they do not truly represent what they claim to be. Whatever they do is to attract attention and self-glorification.
So, the motivation behind what they do is in the honour they receive rather than the souls they save. Therefore, the Pharisees concern more about earthly recognition than being a true servant of God.
In this gospel, Jesus lashes against them and asks the people to do what they say because of what they represent, but they should not imitate them. In essence, Jesus asks His hearers to always follow the way of humility and not the way of the Pharisees. Humility brings a person up. Let us take a little reflection through the gospel reading:
Do What They say not What They do.
In the gospel, Jesus tells his followers “the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say”.
The reason for this is that the Pharisees are teachers and interpreters of the Law so it is right to obey their teaching. The law is divine and because of what it represents, so we have to obey it. This emphasizes the need to always obey the word.
In essence, what Jesus is making us to understand is that there is always the need to obey the word and keep to it. Let us never neglect the word of God because of who is speaking it.
Let us not neglect the word because it is spoken by a minister we hate, or it is spoken by a minister you know about his or her past life.
Jesus is making it emphatic that when we hear the word of God, we are to keep the word. Therefore, let us always listen and obey the word because of what it represents.
Do not do as They do.
Jesus accuses the Pharisees of preaching but not doing, teaching but doing another thing. They are only concerned about earthly honour and earthly titles and doing things so that people will see them.
Jesus says “but do not guide yourself by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not them! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.”
These sets of people lack humility. Therefore, instead of receiving praise from Jesus, they receive backlash. They prey on the sufferings of the poor and like to have only the high places.
These types of people rush to occupy the front seats in the Church but are very far away from God. They prefer attention and adulation but not salvation.
These are people who do everything they can to acquire earthly titles and honours but cannot sacrifice a single time with God. They can sacrifice anything so that people will recognise and praise them but their hearts are very far away from God.
This is the reason Jesus uses this opportunity to emphasise the issue of humility. He cherishes whoever humbles himself before Him.
We do not do like the Pharisees. We do not serve God only that people will see us as prayer warriors. In essence, we serve God from the heart. The Pharisees focus on themselves and the glory they want to get.
They are those whose interest is only in an outward show of their spirituality but can never have a single private time with God.
They were more concerned with outer purity rather than the purity of the heart. Jesus says that they cleaned the inside of the cup but inside their hearts were full of wickedness (Luke 11:39; Matt. 23:25, 27, 28). They do things only that people will recognize and see them.
These are also people who support the church to receive praises and recognition. They do not truly worship God from their hearts. They only come to church during thanksgiving and leave after thanksgiving.
Jesus says, that His disciples must avoid these attitudes. Followers of Jesus must not chase titles and positions but true worship of God. They have to be humble. For whoever humbles himself in the service of the Lord, shall be exalted.
Therefore, Leaders must first of all be servants. Their sole interests must be the salvation of souls and nothing more. What Jesus wants from us is a deeper and closer relationship with God and not doing everything only for the outward show.
Do not be surprised that many who like to occupy the front seats will cease coming to church if they are denied that.
Do not be surprised that many who like to be recognized will fight their parish priests if any position in the church is taken from them. If we are among those who like positions more than our salvation, then we are in the same tea.
Jesus says of people who seek public honour that they will “have no reward from the Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Humility is the key. Whoever humbles himself before God shows who he is as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Neither should you call anyone on Earth Father?
This is one of the verses of the bible, we literally misunderstand. To understand this we have to note the context by which Jesus made this statement. You can see in this gospel that Jesus is already lashing out against the Pharisees who are puffed up by pride, seeking unnecessary attention.
They love to answer rabbis in high places, they see themselves as higher while others are lower. This is what Jesus tries to mitigate. A leader is meant to serve and not to be worshipped.
He says today “You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers”.
The use of the Greek word Adelphoi here indicates that in the body of Christ, we should relate with each other like brothers.
So, Jesus is not ruling out that we have earthly fathers and spiritual fathers. In Acts 7:2, Stephen refers to Abraham as “our father,” in Romans 9:10, Paul speaks of “our father Isaac.”
Jesus also says that We have only one master. So, If we take the words of Jesus literally then we will not also use the words Mister (Mr), Master, Mistress Even “Mister” and “Mistress” (“Mrs.”).Their etymological derivations mean “master”.
Jesus also says ‘Nor must anyone call you teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ”. So if we follow this literally that means we will not also call our teachers “Sir’ Or Teacher.
In essence, what Jesus is against is when we allow people to take the place of God in our lives. This happens when we worship them and swallow whatever they say both good and bad but neglect the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Contextually, this is against the Pharisees who pride themselves so that people will worship them. So, Jesus is telling the disciples not to do such. So, calling your earthly or spiritual father “your father” is not a sin.
Paul regularly refers to Timothy as his child: “Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ” (1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2).
Many times Paul refers to Himself as a father. He said of Onesimus, “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in imprisonment” (Philemon. 1:10).
He tells the Corinthians ‘“I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:14–15). Even John refers to the men in His congregation as fathers (1 John 2:13–14).
Humility is the Key.
Towards the end of this gospel, Jesus now reveals the reason for these admonitions. He says “The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Therefore, whoever humbles himself, God exalts. Whoever humbles himself, God loves. Whoever humbles himself shall be made great by the Lord.
Therefore, what Jesus necessarily requires from us is not to flaunt how wealthy we are. It is not how many titles we gather. It is not exhibiting publicly how prayerful and spiritual we are. This is not showing how extremely righteous we claim to be, etc.
This is like a heart to heart relationship with God. It is when we serve God from a sincere heart. Whoever humbles himself puts God in the first place and not himself. He seeks that God takes all glory in whatever he does. He does not become sad when people do not praise him for what he is doing. In essence, He does it that God will take all honour and glory.
Jesus expects us to be humble despite our position. The heavenly race is not with competition. We are not competing who will be the highest in heaven, we are only striving to be among the heavenly citizens. If heaven is our objective, why the unnecessary competition?
The Blessed Mary is a humble woman and God exalts her. David dances before the ark in front of many ( Samuel 6:14-22) which today many can never try. Some prefer to dance in clubs and parties but see it as belittling to dance for the Lord.
The Great saint Padre Pio advises thus “You must always humble yourself lovingly before God and before men because God speaks only to those who are truly humble and He enriches them with His gifts. As gifts increase in you, let your humility grow, for you must consider that God gives you everything on loan.” ( St. Padre Pio).
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to humble ourselves before Him. May He bless you in ways you never expected. Amen.
Thank God with me as I celebrate my anniversary today.