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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