“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted, and the one who serves the other is the greatest among us.” ~Luke 14:11
There’s a picture puzzle I used to enjoy solving as a child. It appeared most often in the Sunday Comics. The caption would read, “What is missing?” Usually it was a room in a house or an outdoor scene. There were maybe 5 items to find in the picture that were missing. The missing thing might be something like a door without a knob or a chair with only 3 legs. All the answers were written upside down below the picture so that you could check your accuracy. The picture looked perfect until you really started to notice the missing pieces in it.
Jesus explains the Pharisees as missing some pieces. He tells the people to listen to them and endorses their teachings, but he also tells them not to follow their example. They do not practice what they preach and it is definitely a “do as I say, not as I do” society that they lived in.
It is difficult not to see ourselves sometimes in the behavior of the Pharisees. Our culture lures us into thinking that each of us deserves to be heard, to be seen, to have it all, and to be it all. We live in a self-promoting, self-fulfilling culture. There is also such a thing as false humility which is much more insidious. Do we quietly publicize our good deeds and sacrifices to impress others? Do we casually mention our charitable works, our spiritual practices or our simple life-style in order to encourage others to see how “holy” we are? Do we place rules and rituals above people? Do we judge people without knowing their circumstances or struggles? Do we honor Jesus with our lips but not our hearts? Do we talk negatively about others behind their backs? I would like to think that these questions do not apply to me, but they do. I am human. I make mistakes. I sin. I am fortunate enough to have close family members who readily make me aware of my failures. If at first, I do not embrace their criticism of my behavior, I come to realize there is truth in their observations. Discipleship is hard work. It is not always easy to do what is right. Truly humble people do not try to be noticed or place themselves in the spotlight. They do not try to convince others of their own humility, goodness or accomplishments. They do not hold themselves as the standard in which to judge another.
Missing pieces inside us are not always so easy for others to see, but we know they are there.
When I take the time to really think about my own “Pharisee” behavior, asking Christ to help me to think less about me in order to become more like him, in a quiet, miraculous way, Jesus can fill the missing places in my heart, offering healing and grace to receive his heart in place of my own. There will always be space to fill.
C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
Blessings on your own journey.