Saint Augustine, one of early Christianity’s greatest leaders, once said this: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
What do you think? Which verse or story in the Bible hit home with Augustine on the topic of humility?
It’s not an easy question. Because the topic of humility is a frequent topic in the Bible. In today’s reading, we’re encouraged by Isaiah to tremble at the word of God, and be humble and contrite. He tells us that God wants us to be remorseful and regretful over the sinful things we have done.
We are to remember that God is the One who made us. Without him, we don’t even exist. So he certainly has the right to set the rules for his creation. We should listen to what he says, and try to do it, Isaiah asserts.
That was just the Old Testament portion of today’s reading. Moving on to the New Testament letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul encourages the same quality of humility. He reminds us that God not only created us, he also recreated us. He didn’t simply form us. He transformed us. He took us from the dark side to the side of the light.
On that side, we are not to keep on trying to figure out what please us, but start finding out what pleases God.
And that takes great humility. It takes a sense of modesty and meekness to say, “God is smarter than I am. If there’s any debate whatsoever about what I should be thinking, feeling, or doing, then I’m going to go with God’s way, not my way.”
In other words, faith, not pride, will show us the way to what is good, right and true. What Augustine said is really true. Humility, not arrogance, will build the tower that pierces the clouds.
Because humility starts with Jesus, not with me. Humility knows to think much less about self, and think much more about clinging to our Savior so that we can receive his goodness, righteousness and truth — all given to us as a free gift. Humility leads us to the cross for forgiveness, and to the empty tomb for power and life.
As you ponder your own humility (or need thereof), think of it this way. No humility, no foundation. No foundation, nothing else lasting gets built. Humility is the essential first step to a life of noble purpose.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word'” (Isaiah 66:1-2, NIV).
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10, NIV).
Lord, grant me a humble heart. Give me repentance that leads my heart to the cross and the empty tomb — a heart that looks to Jesus for all that is good, right and true in life.
Our Bible reading for Sunday, September 27, is Isaiah 65:17 – 66:24, Ephesians 5:8-33 and Psalm 113:1-9.
Header image based on "Foundation" by ArmchairBuilder.com, CC By 2.0