Humility & the Soil of a Reflective Life

By: Elder David Leong

A beautiful and powerful chapter from Ken Gire’s book “Seeing What Is Sacred”. Too good, in my view, not to share it. Humility is an important ingredient for our growth in Christlikeness:

This my friend is a secret of secrets. It will help you to reap where you have not sown, and it will be a continual source of grace in your soul. For everything that inwardly stirs in you, or outwardly happens to you, becomes a real good to you if it finds or excites in you this humble state of mind. For nothing is in vain or without profit to the humble soul. It stands always in a state of divine growth, everything that falls upon it is like a dew of heaven to it.” – Andrew Murray, Humility, (Whitaker House, 1982) p. 102.

Gire says that:

If the Parable of the Sower teaches us anything, it teaches us this – that no matter how worthy the sower or how wonderful the seed, it is the condition of the soil that determines the crop (Matt. 13:1-23).

As the parable illustrates, the seed may fall on a heart that is packed hard from feet too hurried to stop and reflect on all that the seed has to offer. The seed may into a heart that is shallow in its understanding, and so the roots can’t penetrate deeply enough for the plant to survive the inevitable scorch of difficult days ahead. The seed may fall into a heart that is overgrown with distractions, which seem harmless enough in the beginning but in the end choke out the growth. But if the seed falls into a heart that has been prepared, it will yield a harvest. Thirty. Sixty. In some cases, a harvest of a hundredfold.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a life like that, its barns full, its bushels running over, its bounty able to feed not only our family but to have enough left over to share with others? A life like that would be wonderful. But the soil from which it came wouldn’t be. To produce crops like that, the soil would have to be plowed, its clods broken up, its embedded resistance removed a rock at a time, the competing tendrils rooted out weed by weed. And to nourish the crops with the minerals they need, certain things in and around the soil would have to surrender their lives. Leaves. Twigs. Bark. Each in its own time and its own way would have to be broken off and fall to the ground. All of it would have to die and crumble into compost. Mixed with the manure left behind from passing animals. Rotted by the moisture and the mold and the mildew. Mulched by insects. Eaten by bacteria. Stirred by the slow tunneling of earthworms.

So, king or pauper, all of us will one day meet the same fate. Dust and compost we would be. Trampled over, eaten by, mulched and stirred over and over again. So for all the intellect and wisdom we pride in ourselves, we are but nothing… absolutely, nothing!

Gire goes on to say:

“The organic material that has been broken down to give the soil its richness is called ‘humus.’ Our word humble is related to it, meaning ‘to be brought low.’ That is the process God uses to makes us receptive to His Word. He allows us to be brought low. Sometimes He Himself is the One who brings us there.

Humility, said Confucius, is the foundation of all virtues. Jesus said essentially the same thing when He place the ‘poor in spirit’ first in His list of beatitudes. The phrase would have brought to the mind of a Jewish audience the picture of someone who was down-and-out and desperate.

What is it like to be like that? It’s like being on the street. Not knowing where you’re going to sleep tonight, or what dangers lie waiting when you do. It’s not knowing what tomorrow holds, except more rejection, more sorrow, more hunger, more pain.

And who wants to live like that?

Gire comments, “I, for one, do not. I want a roof over my head with a thirty year guarantee on the shingles and the homeowner’s policy to back it up. I want a door that closes out the world. A door with a lock. A lock with a deadbolt. And a deadbolt with a security system. I want a relationship with God, but without the risk. I want a religious fling, not a marriage I have to work at. I want the Cliff Notes to the faith not a novel.”

I sure agree. Who doesn’t?

“Who doesn’t want to lick the filling from the Oreo? Who doesn’t want the crust cut off the sandwich? Who doesn’t want all that is sweet and soft about Christianity? Love. Joy. Peace. Take the best and leave the rest…

Who of us wants to be men and women of sorrow, acquainted with grief?

Do any of us even know what that is like? To live with some pain that won’t go away. To carry some headache with us everywhere we go. To be hemmed in by sorrow. To be without a job, without the skills to get a job, without someone to help us get those skills. Do we know what’s it like to be without money in the bank or under the mattress or anywhere else? With no assets. No collateral. Do we know what’s it like to beg. Not to ask. Not to borrow. To beg.”

Maybe it is difficult in Singapore for us to imagine that. We hardly see beggars on the streets. We don’t mind many homeless street dwellers around do we? But surely there are those who suffer in silence? those who are without friends, without help, feeling despair…

The Weak and the Lowly

“The beggars in Jesus’ day were the loose ends of humanity that fringed the streets. The lame. The blind. The mentally ill. They were the Lazaruses set out on the curb like so much garbage.

They were the Marys, limp dishrags of remorse, wringing tears from their twisted pasts, tears they used to wash the Savior’s feet.

They were also the ones to whom Jesus preached His most famous sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew says that when Jesus “saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down,” and then began to teach (Matt. 5:1-2 NIV) Where did the crowds come from? Scroll up to the preceding verse at the end of Chapter 4. “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him.” (Matt. 4:25 NIV). And who made up these crowds? Scroll up a couple of verses more. “And Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria; and people brought to Him all who were ill and various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed those having seizures and the paralyzed, He healed them.” (Matt. 4:23-24 NIV).

The people crowding the front rows to hear that sermon were the ones Jesus had healed and delivered. Lepers. The demon-possessed. Epileptics. They were His audience. People who couldn’t come to the temple. People who didn’t dare darken the doors of a synagogue. People who were outcasts, the unclean, the untouchables. People who had fallen among thieves. Robbed of their health. Stripped of their self worth. Beaten down by life and left by the roadside.”

Think for a moment – Jesus preaching and ministering to the down and out, the neglected of society, the outcasts, those who had chronic conditions, the demon-possessed. Yes, His mission was not to those who were healthly and not in need of help. He came to seek the sick and the lost!

Gire adds: “They were the poor in spirit. Impoverished to the point of realizing that if they were to get their daily bread, they would have to beg. And with their tin cup extended toward heaven, that just what they did.

“Son of David, have mercy on me.”

“Give me this living water.”

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

These people had been brought so low to the ground they didn’t have anywhere to look but up. When our hands are that empty and extended toward heaven, begging for any crumbs that fall from the Master’s table, then heaven will extend the grace for us to dine with Christ and Him with us.”

Gire then emphasized: “We are told in the Scriptures that God gives grace to just such people, to people who have been brought low and humbled (James 4:6). If that is true, then whatever happens in our lives to humble us is, in the long run, a good thing, because it paves the road over which the grace of God comes to us.”

Each of us wants a fruitful life, but who of us wants to go through that to get it? Are we humble? Have we been humbled?

To be continued…

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