The Rev. Melissa Hollerith
Today’s Gospel: Matthew 23:1–12
If you were receiving a grade today on your humility, what would it be? Be honest now. Most of us want people to think highly of us so we tend to offer only “our highly-edited selves to the world” as Frederick Buechner said. We find it hard to face honestly who we really are so we edit out the worst parts and put a mask on, and that is how we greet the world.
In the lesson today Jesus warns against this kind of hypocrisy. He calls out the scribes and the Pharisees for pretending to be better than they really are. Hmmm…might Jesus be speaking 2000 years later to us? None of us want to be hypocrites, but we do want people to think highly of us. T.S. Eliot said the reason hypocrisy is alive and well is that “nothing dies harder than the desire to think highly of ourselves.”
So how do we humble ourselves? How do we receive an “A” for humility? True humility means not thinking about oneself, and in our narcissistic self-obsessed American culture this can be quite difficult. Just open your Facebook page or Instagram account if you want to see an illustration. As a teacher of boys for over two decades, I explain humility to them in this way: If you are the fastest runner or the best writer or if you have the quickest wit or solve math problems like Pythagoras himself, you will never need to tell a soul; others will take note. Instead, focus on others, how you might help them. For once we are out of self, we are on the road to a great grade in humility.
Prayer by Charles Wesley
“Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all they faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art: visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.” Amen.