We all want a place at the top. A place of prominence and authority. From the story of Esau and Jacob, to James and John, to me and to you, the desire for a place at the top can frequently be seen. But for Jesus, a position at the “top of the Kingdom” can only be found through humility.
Second place is never a fun place to be. Have you ever seen a football team celebrating the second place “victory” at the Super Bowl? No. First place, being the “best”, is the ultimate goal. And somewhere within each of us there exists this desire for a prominent position at the top. To be the best. To come in first place. And we can see this desire played out in some of the Bible’s earliest characters.
In the book of Genesis we meet Esau and Jacob, the long prayed-for sons of Isaac and Rebekkah. The story tells us that even within Rebekkah’s womb, the two sons were fighting for the first place position. Esau was the firstborn but when Jacob (who’s name means “grasper” or “grabber”) came out he was already grabbing after Esau for the higher position as firstborn. Esau was in first, and Jacob was in second. As the firstborn, Esau would not only receive the family inheritance, but also the blessing of his father Isaac. And for 40 years, Jacob grasped after Esau’s position.
The desire for the prominent place of authority can be found in Jacob, and it can be found in me, in you, and within Jesus’ own community of disciples. In Mark we come across another story of two brothers, James and John. In this story, the brothers expose their desire for position by requesting of Jesus, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
But Jesus tells James and John, and Jesus tells us today, authority in the Kingdom looks radically different than our ideas. We have come to believe that only the strong ones make it to the top. Those with the most authority and the greatest strength… but the Kingdom doesn’t operate according to the world. In Jesus’ great sermon, he tells us that there is only one way to sit at the top of his kingdom. You must be humble. “God blesses those who are humble. For they will inherit the whole earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NLT).
For Jesus, humility is the key to inheriting the whole earth. For Jesus, the place of authority is the place of humility. And humility is not of this world. Humility is God incarnate. Jesus is humility in flesh.
We were designed for authority. Even within the Garden our Creator granted us the blessed authority of ruling over the garden. Not to exploit it, or dominate over it. No. this authority was given for the flourishing of the whole of creation. Kingdom authority is for the blessing and flourishing of others and creation. And it is practiced through humility. Humility that is found in Christ alone.
Returning to the story of Esau and Jacob we learn that Jacob deceived his family in order to receive the benefits and blessing of the firstborn position. After Esau found out that he his father had been deceived and he lost his inheritance and blessing as the firstborn, he went after Jacob. So Jacob ran away from home, to the wilderness. To the place of total vulnerability and utter aloneness. It is here, in this place of vulnerability and humility, that God meets Jacob. And God blesses him. Jacob goes from being a “grasper” to a “blesser”.
The story of Jacob shows that God meets us in our most vulnerable places, the place where we are most real. And God blesses us there.
Take Home Points:
Humility doesn’t come from this world. We cannot cultivate it on our own. It can only come from the one who is humility. So how can we grow in humility? Seth gives us a few take home points:
1. Pray for it! Since humility cannot be found within us or within this world, we must pray for it.
2. Practice it! As you pray for it, begin to practice it. Humility looks like listening more than talking. Try the discipline of listening. Humility means bearing with one another. Bear with one another as we grow together in humility. Express your limitations and weaknesses. God longs to meet you where you are at.
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One thought on “Walk Humbly”
Good message. Appreciate you Seth, and the message a lot! The only thing I’d like to see is less use of animal products and animals as food in the teaching. In the garden, all were vegan, including the animals; it is God’s design that we are going to be vegan again in the new kingdom, at least that is what is implied by scripture.
Yes, he has given us permission now to eat eggs and make cheese and eat the flesh of animals. Sure they taste good. However, for those animals, it is pure hell on factory farms where most of this food comes from today; also no animal, even if done Kosherly, wants to die – by God’s very own design!
God also asks us to be merciful and kind in our dominion! When we partake in factory farming, don’t stand up for animal suffering in all ways it is happening, we are not only supporting this behavior, we are denying a part of our design as image bearers of God – to be faithful stewards in his image over the creation, merciful and kind – to protect them and help THEM flourish, too! To be selfless toward THEM, too! We are denying the effects of the fall as well. It is part of our calling as faithful followers of Christ to heal our relationships, including those with the animal kingdom, and to model what that looks like to the rest of this dark world.
There are many people that are going to be offended by some of the verbiage in a sermon like this, and it will not attract them to our God or his kingdom. The number of secular people who are sensitive to the suffering of animals is growing. When our churches do not show sensitivity to the issues of our times because of the way we raise animals – the pollution it causes, the exploitation of certain people groups, the incredible suffering we cause the animal kingdom, and more – we show insensitivity to the people that do!
Even some Christians are leaving the faith to go to false teachings that are more sensitive toward them and their plight in our world. Many other Christians are becoming discouraged and exasperated at having to carry the burden of bringing love and mercy to the secular peoples and animal kingdom without the help, support, understanding, teaching, and involvement in animal welfare issues of our churches and leadership.
Animals are precious in God’s sight, too. They are included in the covenant God made with humans. And one day, we will care for them (have dominion) as God originally intended as a peaceful creation that eats vegetables and vegetation! It would be nice if this message were also being taught in the sermons at WHC more avidly.
I know God meets people where they are at. Many people are just not at the place that a large part of the secular world is at when it comes to animal suffering. I do believe it is up to leadership to address this gap – if not for the animals themselves, for the people that cannot be reached because the church is not.
I know the churches are afraid of people making a mass exit. When people speak out about these issues, other people get upset! It would be helpful to start small and move forward closing this gap before it gets a whole lot larger! We need animal welfare education and ministries to start addressing them. Reaching animal welfarists is also a function of the church – they need the church too!
Thanks for hearing this message. I say all this respectfully, and without judgment to anyone. For the love of Jesus, people, and all he has created I say it.