What Jesus wants of each and every one of us is the very same thing; he’s not all that concerned with husbands being better spiritual leaders as they exercise their authoritative headship over their God-ordained subordinates or with wives being better helpers as they joyfully and intelligently submit to their God-ordained superiors. He didn’t want an exact role reversal, because he was talking to the individual on his or her spiritual journey. He didn’t want all the slaves to take up being masters or all the masters to sell themselves into slavery. He wasn’t after all the citizens becoming foreigners anymore than all the foreigners becoming citizens. I think the essence of the only role that matters summed up in just one word: humility.
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
It’s probably not a great idea to interpret the Bible in such a way that God exalts you over overs, bestows upon you privilege over others, or anything like that. Eventually somebody will interpret it the other way ’round and it’ll be just as valid.
Jesus wanted people to take stock of where they were and what it would take to follow after him. The way he talked, there was a lot that people had to give up in order to follow him. He was, after all, an itinerant Rabbi who never married, settled down, and started a family – which makes his path a difficult one to follow for those of us who don’t have the option of being just as itinerant as he was or has certain obligations that demand that we remain in one place for awhile.
In James, the poor are instructed to take pride in their humble circumstances while the rich are reminded that they’re little more than a blooming flower that would soon wither and die. In a church full of prosperity gospel teachers, they must find this verse a perplexing one as it’s the opposite of the teaching they want to draw out of the verses.
But the Bible does that – a lot. When you think you can read only one interpretation of a verse, along comes another that says something totally opposite and is still valid in it’s own way. But humility seems to be the foundation of it all. Jesus, after all, despite his position as a deity was born in a manger. Even though he could have called down a legion of angels to do his bidding; he set his highest powers aside and laid them down.
It’s something that’s missing in Christianity. I’ve sat through enough “men are the heads of their households” and “women have the duty to submit to their husbands” sermons to know that humility is a missing ingredient.
Perhaps some imagery will help. According to the way these verses are interpreted commonly, women help hold their husbands up, so imagine a human pyramid, with all the women in the church holding up all the men in that church, and some of those men being the elders/deacons who are held up by some men even as they hold up the pastor above them. Men are told to be “servant-leaders” or to sacrificially put the needs of their wives above them as they use their authority for the good of the family. But do you know the one thing they must not ever do? Free their wives from the burden of helping them up. This is the way that God wants it; so they say. So the men can direct the women: go that way, shuffle this way, but they can’t be the ones holding up their wives, or taking over when her muscles begin to fail her. As a purely spiritual exercise, she’s never supposed to get tired of this treatment of always having to ask permission much as a child would for anything she would like.
But to me a picture of humility is to erase the concept of hierarchy, privilege, special treatment and for all men and all women to be on the same level, helping each other. This to me, is what Jesus was really trying to speak to; but the first-century world in which he lived in could barely stomach the idea that masters and slaves were equal (the males ones, anyway), it would take centuries or possibly millennia for the idea that men and women were just as equal to each other in every way. Today, that teaching still hasn’t materialized in a Christianity that’s so enamored with the concept of hierarchy. But at least I can practice humility in my own life by doing what I believe to be right, and that’s to follow Jesus’ example in laying down any power or privileged I’d have to make decisions for others and empower them in a world that would very much prefer them to be powerless.
9 thoughts on “The Role of Humility”
Jamie, I’m not sure which part of this post I liked the best until I got to the very end…”empower them in a world that would very much prefer them to be powerless.” Those words hit me “hard enough to stun an ox.” That is exactly what Jesus did time and time again!
Everyone He touched and everyone He healed was empowered in a world that would just as soon see them remain powerless. He was always lifting others up, even if that meant humbling Himself.
Thanks for this post!
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I was just wondering if you have any Biblical basis for your thoughts or are they simply your own personal ideas?
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Romans 12 – all of it. ‘do not conform to the pattern of this world’ What is the pattern of this world? hierarchy, authority, domination, commanding and controlling others. Jesus pointed that out in the earlier verses at the top of this list.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.
God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
It’s a combination of two Biblical themes – one is that Jesus’ kingdom is not like that of the world. In Jesus’ day and age, authority was something some people had over others; men had it over women, freemen had it over slaves, elders had it over youth, citizens had it over foreigners, wealthy had it over poor. Any combination of those traits could result in having a rather high amount of authority or a very low status in the world.
But Jesus himself served as an example, though with all the authority to call down an army of angels, with all the authority to command nature to wipe out the Romans in an earthquake, with all the power at his disposal – his life was that of an itinerant Rabbi, unmarried, he attracted a following because he saw the religious authority of the Pharisees as a corrupt institution. What were the Pharisees all about? Their own authority.
Christianity’s other prominent theme is humility. The realization that this applies to roles is in accordance with the idea that we do not have the authority over others to require them they fulfill their part of the role. You might be the perfect head, but you cannot force your wife to submit. You might be the perfectly obedient one, but you cannot force your husband to lead. Even if a husband does take the lead, it’s no guarantee that he’ll go about it the right way. A humble wife is flexible enough to know when God is calling her to step outside of a first-century worldview of marriage and into a twenty-first century view of marriage in order to better care for the whole household. A husband should be willing to follow Christ’s example and lay down every bit of authority over his family and be on her level. And let’s not forget here that single men and women exist as males and females; they must fulfill both roles, leading themselves and submitting to the consequences of their decisions. Humility is a great guide about how they ought to go about it.
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Ma’am, with all due respect, you have not learned to rightly divide the Word of Truth. It would appear that you pick and choose which parts of the scriptures you like and you disregard the rest. You have basically said in your original blog that you have heard sermons preached. That means, God has given his message to preachers. You have heard them and rejected God’s messages. You know what the Bible says – just like the devil knows what the Bible says… but you choose to reject it. You say that a woman should be flexible enough to know whether or not her husband is being a good enough leader to follow. God says in I Peter 3:1 “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” – in other words, God doesn’t say a wife is only to obey her husband if she feels he’s a good leader. You say 21st Century Christianity should be different than when the Bible was written, but ignore the fact that God’s standards are still the same today – that’s why we have the Bible. Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I will not continue going back and forth on this. I feel like your heart is too hardened to let anything sink in that I show you in the scriptures, that your pastor preaches to you, or that anyone tries to show you. Be careful about that. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” – Proverbs 29:1
I have decided that I will not continue to debate anything you write in your blog, anything you comment on my blog, or any additional comments from you on either one. Instead, after this last comment, I will begin to pray for God to soften your heart and open your eyes and to give you a better understanding of His Word and the ability to obey God in all things.
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If the Bible’s true in all things, let me know when we re-institute slavery as a permanent institution and we’ll see about this whole submission thing; after all, in every single passage that says: “wives, submit to your husbands.” It also says “slaves, submit to your masters.” Oh, and I might even consider wearing head coverings in accordance with 1 Corinthians 11 while I’m at it … and being completely quiet in church.
Look, even your camp picks and chooses. It’s no different.
The role of the woman is seen at the beginning that’s found in Genesis 2:18 which says, 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
It’s not good for man to be alone, why did God say that? First of all, God wanted to populate the earth and second, a wife will be a help in all areas of life to the husband like showing love towards the husband, raising the children to be obedient and teaching them to seek the Lord, support the husband’s role as leader. The husband had to love his wife as himself, supporting her financially. A marriage is not 50% for the wife and 50% for the husband but each one has to give to the other 100%. Marriage reflects our relationship with Christ as seen in
2 Corinthians 11:2
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Marriage shows commitment, faithfulness, love that’s sacrificial and support. Marriage is a flection how it should be with Christ.
‘ezer kednegdo’ – or ‘a strength corresponding to (as in equal to)’ it’s been noted that ezer connotes a military ally type strength, a warrior kind of strength. It’s somehow been translated into helpmeet – but that’s not the best translation of the original Hebrew.
Rashi put it this way: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.”
I’d like to think of it as a check and balance type system.
It’s not good for woman to be alone either; so in the same way, men are women’s ezer kednegdo.
It’s not good for man to be alone – God is in community, three in one, one in three – mankind (men and women) were not made to be one. Being social creatures is crucial to our well-being. God was saying it’s not good for man to be something that He is not; it was not good for one human to be alone when God is a community.
In order for the woman (she wasn’t named Eve until after the fall) to help the man, she and he would have to work together, fulfilling the same tasks. If you’ve ever tended a garden, then you know what a sort of ‘all hands on deck’ type business it is, everyone together turns over the soil, plants the seeds, pulls the weeds, harvests the crops, and processes the food. It was never a deal in which the man did all that alone while the woman never did any of those things. Same goes for raising children, both parents are needed to create a life, feed the child, wash the child, change the child’s diapers, watch over the child, these aren’t tasks that God meant only women must do and that men are forbidden from doing. Helping is doing the same thing as the person you’re helping. If you’re painting a house all by your lonesome and the help is making lemonade and cookies – then you’re still alone. But as my favorite saying goes: “many hands make light work” (and saves a whole lot of time.)
No two marriages or relationships are identical. Not even complementarian marriages pull off 50/50; men do womens’ work, women do men’s work because – it’s human work. When husbands and wives give 100%; a husband might decide to defer to his wife in areas that are in her wheelhouse; and not just because she’s a woman, but because even though it’s supposedly his territory, she’s far more adept. And it really doesn’t make a man less manly to enjoy a tea party with his little girl; make-up and all. Gender isn’t the dividing line. That’s why there are stories in the bible of men cooking (it’s not a woman’s task!) And there are stories of women conducting business (it’s not just up the men to be the breadwinners!)
I know for you married guys that marriage is more important than anything these days, it’s so important that you can’t see how you’ve marginalized so many singles in the churches. One woman I spoke to said that she had to fight back tears just last Sunday when her pastor started a gender role sermon series and she realized that as long as she was single, she was being excluded. So she’s decided to skip out on church until they talk about something that includes her where she’s at. The funny thing about quoting from 2 Corinthians, is that Paul’s talking about people preach another gospel – that’s what this gospel of gender is! One that doesn’t take into account Jesus’ silence on the subject and that virtually the sum of all the preaching on it is done in the gospels. After all, Jesus told people that anyone who left behind their physical family in his name’s sake would find a spiritual family in the church. But this gospel of gender this gospel of marriage as a reflection of Christ and the church tells singles that unless they’re married and have a family, they don’t belong. I know because that’s the only message the church ever sends these days. No longer is it Paul’s affirmation that: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
These days its: “that Christ died for the redemption of our masculine gender roles, to restore male headship’s rightful authority and exemplify dutiful and obedient submission, to restore biblical marriage and destroy the foundation of unbiblical marriages so that singles everywhere may marry and have marriages to the full; and any singles who remain are like Christ without a church or a church without Christ to lead it – an incomplete gospel and an incomplete person with an incomplete family and an incomplete understanding of the right interpretation of the Bible.”
Because this is what I do know, gender roles don’t apply to singles because they’re not married, which makes them not men and not women; which means that singles might as well not be Christian.
You have some serious issues, you have butchered those verse so badly that you can’t tell what they look like anymore. You do not know the scriptures, at all. Your interpretation is really bad. You are twisting Genesis to go along with your false teachings.
Do you remember what Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 3:6? ” He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Believing in the Bible down to the letter, is humanity’s oldest problem. The Pharisees that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 23 were the same way. Jesus came to show us the spirit of the letter, the weightier matters of mercy, justice, kindness, and forgiveness, how to love others so that we may better love God. “Mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus quoted from Hosea – twice. That’s what missing from this literal insistence on forms and functions, on roles and rules – it’s all sacrifice, but no mercy.
It’s sacrificing an abused wife by sending her back into the tender loving arms of her husband and having no mercy on her knowing that odds are good that if he hit once, he will do it again.
It’s all sacrifice telling wives to obey their husbands even in breaking civil law and doing wrong because God smiles on obedience and they’re not permitted to say ‘no’ because they must be submissive to their husbands in all things and having no mercy on her when the consequences are brought to light.
It’s all sacrifice telling men and women they’re not masculine or feminine enough and no mercy on them as created by God to be different from the stereotypes that are just wrong about being a man or a woman.
Ultimately, Christian men and women are meant to reflect Christ’s image, you can’t cut Christ in two, a pink half for women to follow, a blue half for men to follow. When Christ submits, he’s an example just as much to the men as he is to the women. When Christ teaches, he’s an example just as much to the women as he is to the men. Jesus didn’t teach about gender roles, but he did teach that all who humble themselves will be exalted, and all who exalt themselves will be humbled.
These gender teachings, all they do is tell the husbands to be the master of their house who wears a sign that says “servant” written on it; that’s not humility. To become God’s servant, you have to lay down your privilege that you were lucky enough to be a born a man and were therefore special from day one, you have to lay down your power and authority to make decisions over everyone who wasn’t as special as you. You have to stop being the one to gives order and start being the one who takes them. Just as Jesus laid-down his Godness; surely we can follow his example and surrender our crowns, can we not?