This week LeBron James was applauded as a great basketball player but not a humble one. He said he was the greatest basketball player on the planet. I would not bet against that statement. Michael Jordan said he could beat any one of his current players one on one. I think he was right. He still is great although he didn't claim to be able to beat LeBron one on one. Greatness is a passing fashion. Tomorrow LeBron may not be the greatest any more. I watched the film about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, this week. He claimed to be the greatest, too, as great as god who he did not believe in. His wife said one of the reasons she stayed with him as long as she did was because someone needed to tell him he was not god. He was not. He was the smartest person on the planet at one time, that might be true. Some one will come along who is smarter.
Is it humility if you are great and deny it. God is great he says and He is good and created everything and claimed it was all very good. He wants us to praise him for his greatness. Yet, he wants us to be humble too. So, what is humility?
The prophet Micah tells us what God wants from us: to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with him. How can some one walk with God and not be humbled?
The NY Yankees held one of their Old Timers games this week when they honor past Yankee greats. Jim Leyritz, who starred for the Yankees in the 1996 world series, and then became a Yankee outcast for a while after a 2007 DUI and vehicular homicide charges was back in Yankee pin stripes. He said he had been humbled and then some amazing things happened. He is now doing some work for the Yankee front office and charity work. He pointed to A-Rod's own amazing turn around and hinted that A-Rod's humbling in his year out of baseball punishment for using PEDS has been a blessing for him. He said baseball players can start to think they are bigger than they are and need to be humbled some times.
Life can be humbling. Bodies break down. Marriages fail. Skills are lost. Good jobs are hard to come by. You don't have to look too far to see people living in humbling circumstances. There are wars and rumors of wars and refugee camps and all kinds of places where people are eking out an existence. The Old Testament word for humble started out as a word to describe the poor who had no land of their own and therefore no means of support. They were often abused and oppressed by the more fortunate. Sort of the way it has always been.
In the New Testament several writers urge Christians to be humble which in the Greek world was equated with lowliness and shamefulness and was to avoided at all costs.
The rabbis taught their people to be humble which was seen as a necessary virtue for the help of God now and in the future. The New Testament writers saw humility as a sign of the kingdom of God. God regarded the low estate of Mary, the mother of Jesus. John the Baptist lived humbly and simply and his preaching "brought every mountain and hill low." Jesus was "gentle and humble in heart" and blessed those followers who were meek.
Several times in the Bible, we are told to humble ourselves before God and He will lift us up. At the end, the humble will be exalted and the proud put down.
Humbling yourself or being humbled by life or by God is not a matter of self abasement or false humility, its more like seeing yourself as you see others. Frederick Buechner wrote that humility is not thinking ill of yourself but thinking of yourself the way you think of anybody else.