Beware of False Humility!

“I dedicate this book to all the Saints of the world who, like Joseph, are trying to find their way out of prison and into the palace.”

supernatural ways of royaltyWith those words, Kris Vallotton begins arguably the most impacting book of this year’s BSSM assignments. The title is somewhat self-explanatory: “The Supernatural Ways of Royalty” seeks to persuade every Christian that he/she is created and redeemed to be the King’s children. And this means something.

In fact, it means a whole lot of something!

The book is well worth reading, and the workbook is even more valuable if you must choose between the two. However, allow me to focus on one particularly meaningful facet of the content.

One reason I will long remember this material is the strong reaction it initially provoked within me. Make a note on this: When something offends you, do yourself a favour and at least explore why. My observation? It’s not typically some easy-to-dismiss reason like, “The other person is stupid.” To be sure, stupidity exists. And at times, it offends. But some of the stupidity lives close to home, like melded-to-my-bones close to home. And nothing reveals inner idiocy like exploring my offended feelings.

Here’s one example.

The Gospel uses wildly favourable language to speak about God’s children. You and I are outrageously loved. “Literally” is one of those so-overused-as-to-be-useless-now words. But here, it’s for real. We are outrageously loved, literally. Read Jesus’ parables: The Prodigal Son (Lk 15) and the Vineyard Workers (Mt 20) are particularly maddening, literally cause for full-blown outrage. Road rage has nothing on Bible rage!

Through such nonsensical grace, ultimately displayed in Christ’s death and resurrection, God invites everyone He’s ever birthed to be birthed again. New beginning and new belonging await. And the ID cards of the Kingdom’s citizens are insane! Regardless of background, training, or resumé, they read, “Madly loved child, fully redeemed image-bearer, anointed saint and Spirit-temple.”

And if you’re like me, that ID card seems poorly sized for my pocket, like trying to squeeze an iPad into skinny jeans. Great gift, just unsure how to carry it!

  • It’s uncomfortable.
  • It seems like it’s made for someone else.
  • Perhaps it’s riddled with typos.
  • Or an outright wrong address.

But to all who are in Christ, the Father insists, “No, it’s just right, precisely what I paid for.”

So let’s ask a helpful question at this point: What does it say about me (perhaps about you too) that I squirm with the way the Bible speaks about me as one of God’s children? As I already said: “The Gospel uses wildly favourable language to speak about God’s children.” It’s meant to infuse us with joy and freedom and power and hope.

Why instead does it bend some of our backs and unsettle some of our spirits?

It’s as if we might be more comfortable to be treated as a hobo. We’d rather God merely give us a shower and shave, then slip us a few bucks for a burger and direct us toward a clean doorway in which we can sleep the night.

But that’s not remotely close to what this means:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 Jn 3:1)

And that Father who calls us His own is the Cosmic King, robed in glory and authority and power, all of which He lovingly labours to bestow to us. He even labours with us and within us to train us to steward these in life-filled ways. Some (including a nasty little chatter in my head) will call this wishful thinking, presumptuous at best and arrogant at worst.

I know I’ve often believed such thoughts — unbelief masquerading as caution.

I’ve told myself that it’s because I value humility. And I value humility because Jesus values humility — duh! He “made himself nothing”, encouraged me to take the last seat at the banquet, and told me that the greatest is the one who serves all. Humility is obviously a mega-theme for Christ’s followers.

This is undeniably true, and a certifiable big deal.

So it is vital that we define humility properly.

Because $100 bills are awesome. But fakes exist. And they’re worthless. They can even get you imprisoned.

And humility is awesome. But fakes exist. And they’re worthless. They can even get you imprisoned.

And my observation: Religion is one of the prime settings for such forgeries.

God’s ways are said to be perfect. So is it any wonder that He’d have just the right touch, in giving us our identities? Vallotton says it this way:

“The truth of God’s grace humbles a man without degrading him and exults a man without inflating him.”

The Creator of our souls is the Caregiver of our souls, and His affection doesn’t need my adjustments to better balance it. He’s not in danger of spoiling us. Despite my small-mindedness, the Father knows this healthy dynamic is fully attainable:

“We can be people of humility and still be confident in who we are. Unfortunately, confidence always looks like arrogance to the insecure.”

And it’s that last part — that last word — that zings!

When I don’t take God at His word regarding who I am in Christ, then I’m left trying to prove myself to myself, and that’s been a miserably tough crowd. When purchased and redeemed people continue to view themselves through any lens other the God’s, then a low view of self is natural. In fact, it even feels proper to spiritualize our low self-esteem. We’d never say it, but the sentiments brew beneath the layers:

  • “I’m suspicious of those Christians who don’t feel defeated and despairing?”
  • “Isn’t it spiritual to feel perpetually aware of my shortcomings?”
  • “Isn’t there some old hymn somewhere that said I’m a worm?”
  • “A rare manuscript of the Psalms suggests this translation: This is the day that the Lord has made, let us find shame and then dwell in it?”
  • “In a way, self-loathing probably glorifies God. It keeps us small, so that He’ll seem big. Don’t want to flirt with dreams or aspirations. Boo on those!”

Sarcasm aside, arrogance should be guarded against. This is obvious. Blatant self-centredness is anti-Kingdom. But the stunner is that one can overcompensate in the other direction, plunge into a false humility, and discover an alternative path to self-obsession. Both authentic arrogance and false humility hinder the grace of God in a life. Both imprison.

Many of us have taken a strange comfort in Romans 3:23, when it affirms that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Whew! At least I know my feelings of failure are par for the course.

But the subtler-yet-undeniable point in the verse is this: We were created for glory.

  • We are designed in accordance with divinity.
  • We are shaped for the sacred.
  • We are honed for heaven.
  • We are crafted for Christlikeness.

As it was in the beginning, so it shall be at the end. For we can be sure that the One who has begun a good work in us will see it through to completion. We’re told that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil.

You can count false humility among his targets.

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