HUMILITY IS THE PATH TO HEAVEN
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
George Bernard Shaw said, "The Churches must learn humility as well as teach it." This small sentence is packed with wisdom because it not only states what is needed, but acknowledges the human pride that has been present throughout all of history in the organized religions of our world.
Pride is always present when humility is absent. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 21:23-27 we read: "And when He was in the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave Thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; He will say unto us, Why did you not then believe him? But if we shall say, of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And He said unto them, neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Just prior to this confrontation with the chief priests and elders of the temple, Jesus Christ had cleansed the temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, exclaiming "It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."
The chief priests and elders of the temple could not find fault with the miracles that Jesus Christ performed, so in an attitude of triumphalism, they questioned His authority to cleanse the temple, perform miracles and preach to the people. The chief priests and elders knew that Jesus Christ was not a Levitical Priest and did not have the formal education normally required of a Rabbi. Through the sin of pride, the chief priests haughtily considered themselves greater than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and questioned His authority and ministry.
Because the chief priests and elders were motivated by unbelief, pride and hostility, Jesus does not answer, but confounds His adversaries with a question of His own that they cannot respond to without condemning themselves.
C. S. Lewis once said, "According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Un-chastity, anger, greed, drunkenness are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind."
In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 23, verse 37 we read: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent to you! How many times have I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!"
You can literally feel the agony in the heart of Jesus Christ in this Scripture passage. His true desire is to unify His Holy Church and draw all of His people under His tender loving care. The pride of mankind truly stands in the way of this unity, and still does to this day! This was not a problem that was unique to the Jewish faith, this attitude and pride continues to be a problem even today in the modern world.
The Apostle Paul tells us that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, yet so many people throughout the ages have condemned others for doing just that. God created all mankind as equals. We are not to make judgments about the validity of anyone's faith. We are not to place a stumbling block in our brother's path to salvation. St. Paul said in Romans 14:13, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way."
Even the Disciples of Jesus Christ fell victim to the pride of triumphalism in Gospel of St. Mark Chapter 9, verses 38 through 42: "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he follows not us: and we forbad him, because he follows not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My Name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My Name, because you belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."
This Scripture lesson clearly states that Jesus Christ strictly forbids Sectarianism and triumphalism, or the attitude that one creed is superior to all others. God's working transcends our limited perceptions. One is either for or against Christ, but it is not always in our perception to know who is on which side, therefore we must approach the subject in a non-judgmental way with total humility.
Jesus Christ issues one of the sternest warnings in the New Testament in this Scripture passage. The little ones that Jesus Christ is referring to are humble believers with no pretensions to greatness. A major cause of stumbling for Christians is that their leaders seek to be great! Jesus Christ clearly seeks ministers that will be the servants of all, not rulers over the Christian faithful. Our leader is Jesus Christ, and according to the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of Christ; our Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are supposed to be Servants of Christ, and servants of the Christian faithful, not masters!
Jesus saw a lack of humility, and petty jealousy caused by triumphalism in his Disciples and quickly and sternly warned them that such behavior is not tolerated by God. In other Scripture passages Jesus Christ tells the Disciples that whoever shall be your minister shall be the servant of all. He states also in the Scriptures that the servant is never greater than the Master. How often humanity tends to forget this Divine hierarchy.
John of Carpathos said, "Peter was first given the keys, but then he was allowed to fall into the sin of denying Christ; and so his pride was humbled by his fall." These examples are recorded in the Bible for a reason. They remind us to watch for the stumbling block of pride in ourselves. For if the Disciples of Jesus Christ fell victim to the sin of pride and the lack of humility, what possible chance do we have of not falling victim ourselves.
John Newton said, "I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master." St. John Chrysostom said, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility." We are all students in the school of Christ, the Bible is our text book. We, as Christians, must study the Scriptures and learn from them as if our very lives depend upon it, because our eternal life does actually depend on it!
We cannot discount any part of the teachings of Jesus Christ because they do not suit us. We must accept the Holy precepts of Christ in humble and God-loving hearts. In James 4:10 we read, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." D. L. Moody once said, "God sends no one away empty, except those who are full of themselves."
We, as Christians are to worship the Lord our God with all our hearts and minds. We are to worship Him, serve Him, and follow Him, by following His teachings in the Scriptures. We must not condemn others who walk beside us on our journey toward God, because clearly the Scriptures tell us that God does not want us to behave in this prideful manner.
Our journey to God are hallowed steps, illuminated by the Grace of the Sun of Righteousness, powered by Faith in the Son of God, and guarded by love as only God can love! "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor." John 12:26. In faith, we stand on this promise as we make our journey toward God and the Kingdom of Heaven.
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