[Note: This sermon was presented at one of the Community Lenten Services coordinated by the Juniata Valley Ministerium. This sermon was delivered at the Zion Lutheran Church.]
In this series of messages during Lent, we’ve been focusing on the promises of God’s blessings given in the beatitudes, a section of Scripture that Jesus presents at the beginning of his "sermon on the mount" (Matthew 5-7). Though much of the teaching has become pretty familiar to us, when we hear it with fresh ears, it’s really pretty revolutionary stuff about things like anger, adultery, loving one’s enemies, prayer, and money/possessions.
Tonight, we’re focusing on Matthew 5.5 which says, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." It’s a quotation of Psalm 37.11a: "Those who are meek will inherit the land."
I also like a couple modern translations of the verse …
- "God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them." (NLT)
- "God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!" (CEV)
Problem is, much of our society equates humility/meekness with weakness.
Leonard Bernstein, a famous conductor, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. He said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”
However, humility is not about being weak, mild, unassertive, or cowardly. I believe humility is about knowing that you need God, and that without God, you can do nothing of any real, eternal value! Humility is about NOT being self-focused and self-absorbed.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren)
“Humility is not trying to be humble … humility is just seeing God as he is." (Louie Giglio)
Let’s take a quick look at some humble people in Scripture.
In the NT, there’s Paul. Now Paul had every right to be proud (if anyone did); he had experienced a number of huge accomplishments in his life. But God humbled him on the road to Damascus. And throughout his life for Christ, he continued to experience hardships for God’s kingdom. Read 2 Corinthians 4.7-11.
In the OT, there’s Joseph. Now Joseph certainly didn’t start out humble, did he? He had huge visions of greatness. But after a lifetime of humbling experiences, he was able to say to his brothers, who had caused much of his hardship, "As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil" (Genesis 50.20).
But perhaps one of the greatest examples of meekness and humility was Moses. In fact, the Scriptures say, "Moses was more humble than any other person on earth" (Numbers 12.3). I don’t know about you, but I would never consider Moses, the most humble person at the time, a weak leader!
Though humble people each have different personalities and giftedness, I believe there’s at least one common denominator: teachability. Paul, Joseph, and Moses (not to mention all the other humble people in Scripture) were teachable.
"The most important thing about education is appetite." (Churchill)
I believe the call to discipleship requires teachability!
"If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me." (Luke 9.23)
Jesus calls us to be followers/disciples! Disciples are students and learners. They have a passion to learn. But this learning isn’t simply classroom, head knowledge kind of learning; it’s more like being an apprentice. We are lifetime apprentices, working alongside, and sitting at the feet of, our Master Teacher, Jesus!
Our Master Teacher says, "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11.29).
Ironically, at the end of the the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges his followers by showing them the importance of teachability. He says, "Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash." (Matthew 7.24-27)
Those who listen and obey and teachable; those who do not listen and obey are not teachable. It matters greatly which we are! How teachable are you?
O God, thank you for your patience with us when we are not teachable. Thank you for not quickly tossing us (clumps of clay) off your potter’s wheel. But help us to always be moldable and shapable. Help us to be teachable, as the call to follow you and be your disciples, requires! Equip us to be humble, knowing that we desperately need you … always! Amen.
For Reflection …
"The call to discipleship requires teachability!" Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
I love these quotes on teachability …
"If I am through learning, I am through." (John Wooden)
"It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts." (John Wooden)
"As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot." (Ray Kroc)
How teachable are you?
Reflect on these questions and thoughts on your own or post a comment by clicking on "comments" below this post.