The Art of Loving: Showing True Humility (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
The Art of Loving: Showing True Humility
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
In the Jewish text (not the Law of Moses but after Bible times) that regulates their Passover, it is written: “Man was created on the sixth day so that he could not be boastful, since he came after the flea in the order of creation.”
Tom Brokaw, years ago, was promoted as co-host of “The Today Show” on NBC. Brokaw thought he had reached the pinnacle of success and he was quite proud of himself. But one day, he was in a store and he noticed that one guy was keeping a close eye on him. Brokaw thought to himself, “Well, that’s the price you pay for celebrity.”
The man came over and said, “You’re Tom Brokaw, aren’t you?”
Brokaw says he smiled, stood a little straighter, and answered “Yes, that’s right.”
“You used to do the morning news back on KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska, didn’t you?”
“Yes, you’re right again,” Brokaw said, enjoying his notoriety.
“I’d have spotted you in a minute, man.” The guy said with a smile. Then he got a puzzled look on his face and added, “Whatever happened to you, anyhow?”
Life has a way of keeping us humble, if we will listen. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 that loving hearts make a habit of showing true humility, not just toward people we like, toward people who agree with us, but toward our enemies, people we don’t like, people who disagree with us.
WHAT IS HUMILITY?
Humility means being quite about yourself. In Proverbs 27:2, the wiseman says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus criticized the Pharisees, you remember, and He challenged us, His followers not to be like them, when He said they love to “blow the trumpet when they are giving,” so they will be noticed by others (Matt. 6:2-4). Jesus said, “Don’t be like that.”
Giving is a good thing. But if we do a good thing with impure motives, it will backfire on us if only in the eyes of God.
Secondly, humility is “not looking down” on others. In Philippians 2:3-4, the apostle Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
To make the point more clear, Luke records in Luke 18:9-14: “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
M. L. Bowen wrote: “You should have enough education so you won’t have to look up to people, and then more education so you’ll be wise enough not to look down on people.”
We should not be like that man whose wife crawled into bed beside him and said, “Lord, I am tired.” The husband replied, “You can call me ‘Jack’ in private.”
Thinking that we are somehow better than others leads us to be judgmental of others. Jesus’ brother - who grew up with the embodiment of humility! - said, “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12).
Third, humility means letting others shine their light. Paul wrote that Christianity is “rejoicing when others rejoice” (Rom. 12:15). Listen to this writing about “A Friend.”
A friend - his love for you is tops when you’re at the bottom. He looks up to you when the rest of the world is looking down on you. He lets you step on his toes to help you get back on your feet. He shows you the meaning of true friendship and not the meaninglessness of it. He shoots straight for you, not at you. He knows the most about your faults, and cares the least. And when you’re wrong he tells you, not the rest of the world.
He doesn’t complain when you neglect him, but beefs when you neglect yourself. And when you flop he never splits with you, except what he has. And when you achieve success, he wants nothing more than to know about it. He lets you worry him more than his enemies. He’s the best press agent, and he doesn’t have to be paid to boost you.
His friendship is the kind you won’t lose, even when you deserve to. He stands behind you when you’re taking bows and beside you when you’re taking boos. No greater love has a man that to lay down his life for his friend.
- Author unknown
That last statement, you’ll recognize, comes from the mouth of Jesus, in John 15:13.
An old man was an organist in a great cathedral. His music was inspiring. One particular Sunday, his music was sadder than usual. After the service, someone asked him about it.
“I’ve been playing the organ here for a long time,” he said. “But I’m going to be replaced by a young man today. Playing here has been my work and my life.” The old man was pained by the idea of having to let go and let someone else shine in his place.
As the day came to a close, he noticed the new organist at the back of the cathedral. Reluctantly, the old man took the key, locked the organ, and walked back to the younger man. As he walked, he noticed that the setting sun, as it came through the stained-glass window, was somehow more beautiful than he’d ever seen it before.
At the young man’s request, he slowly handed him the organ key. The younger man quickly walked to the instrument, sat down, and then slowly, as if he might break it, opened the keyboard, positioned his hands and began to play. The old man sat down in the back to listen.
The elderly organist knew he has always played beautifully. But shortly after the new man began to play, he realized he was in the presence of sheer genius. The music he heard was beyond what he ever could have performed, even in his prime. It was joyful; it was enthralling.
For the first time, the world heard the brilliance of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Another person was watching all this and asked the old man, “Why are you so happy?”
He responded, “Oh you see. I’m happy because I’ve given the master the key.”
That’s humility - not self-promotion but letting someone else shine.
THERE ARE SOME HARD TRUTHS:
First hard truth - I am not indispensable. To anyone. Only Christ is indispensable to everyone. I am not. In every role I have, I can be replaced by someone else and it is just as likely that the next person is better than I am as it is the next person is worse than I am.
The president of a large university showed a grasp of this concept when he said to a colleague, “Be kind to your A and B students, because some day they may return to your campus and be your professors. But be extremely kind to your C students, because one day one of them will return and build you a multi-million dollar science lab.”
One day a woman said to Winston Churchill, “Doesn’t it thrill you, Mr. Churchill, to know that every time yo speak, the hall is packed to overflowing?”
Mr. Churchill responded, “It is quite flattering. But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if, instead of giving a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”
The size of your funeral is going to depend on the weather that day. If it rains, most people are going to stay home.
The Bible teaches that pride is a sin. Proverbs 21:4: “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, The lamp of the wicked, is sin.”
Proverbs 16:5 - “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
Proverbs 8:13 - “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.”
The emphasis on humility is just as strong in the NT:
2 Timothy 3:2 - “men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.”
1 John 2:16 - “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
The world looks down on humility. But God exalts it as one of the most important of all virtues He expects from us.
Pride is destructive. It tempts us to think we can get along with God.
Provers 16:5 - “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
In Daniel 4, God punished King Nebuchadnezzar for his pride, for believing that he built the Babylonian kingdom all by himself. In verses 31-32, we read: “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’”
The same type of thing happened in the NT times with King Herod. He gave a speech and the people praised him saying, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man!” Then God struck King Herod dead because, Luke writes in Acts 12:22-23, “Herod did not give praise to God.”
God does not take pride lightly.
A frog and a goose became friends. They sang duets together and helped each other and find food. They respected each others’ gifts.
Then fall came and it was time for the goose to fly south for the winter. The goose said he would like to take the frog with him, but he didn’t know how they could do it. The frog suggested that he tie a string around the goose and then hold the other end with his mouth.
That’s just what they did, and it worked fine as they flew high through the sky - until a farmer saw the strange sight and shouted, “What a marvelous plan! Who of it!?”
Bursting with pride, the frog could not resist shouting, “I did!”
GOD’S WAY TO GREATNESS:
Humility - thinking soberly about ourselves, putting the other person’s needs and opinions before our own - is God’s plan for greatness.
1 Peter 5:5-6, the man who had so much pride in his own abilities that he swore he would die with Jesus but would not deny Jesus, wrote: “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” Do you think Peter learned something about boasting from his experience?
James 4:10 - “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
When Jesus’ disciples argued over who would be the greatest, Jesus said, “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).
God’s way is to focus on submissiveness, not greatness.
God’s way is to focus on giving, not getting.
God’s way is to focus on lasting goals, not temporary fulfillment.
God’s way is yearn for His approval, not man’s.
God’s way is to teach us patience and self-control, not self-gratification.
God’s way is to direct us toward cooperation, not competition.
God’s way is for us to follow Him, not to follow man.
The cross is the glaring example of what God’s humility will do. The cross is the embodiment of humility and submissiveness. You can’t threaten someone who is hanging on a cross. You and I need to nail our pride to the cross and loving hearts do that - every day.
Take home message: Bow your heart to those around you, and to God, every day.
Start an evangelism conversation: “What do you think about when you go to sleep at night?”