Monday, August 08th, 2011 | Author: Skip Moen
Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4 NASB
Humbles – The Kingdom is for children. We are quick to acknowledge that we need the humility and attitude of a child in order to enter into the Kingdom. But too often we fail to read this verse in its context. We act as though the verse stands alone as some universal requirement for humility (tapeinos). We don’t see that this verse is about a much more insidious issue – my evaluation of my own importance.
How important are you? Eighty percent of people believe they are above average. That gives us an indication of our self-delusions. The same mistake occurred among Yeshua’s followers. The context of this object lesson is the disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest among us?” In other words, they wanted to know who would take over after Yeshua died. Who would be the next movement leader? Who would attract the attention? Who would carry on the ministry? Who would do the teaching? Who would perform the miracles? Who would be the most important?
Go back and read verse 1 in this chapter. “At that time,” says Matthew. At what time? At the time following Yeshua’s announcement that He would go to Jerusalem to die. You’ll notice that He also says “and rise again on the third day.” But the disciples pay no attention to this “impossible” claim. They are far more interested in carrying on the ministry after He is gone. And to do that, they need Him to tell them who is important.
Yeshua provides the answer. “Look at this child.” We focus on the word tapeinos (humility) and think that Yeshua is speaking about the importance of lack of pride. We should be focusing on meizon (greater). That’s the issue at hand.
How is a child greater? The answer is not found in the actual behavior of a child but in an adult’s perception of a child. Adults see that a child doesn’t strive to take over. Adults believe that a child should accept his or her place under the authority. Adults think a child should go where he is told to go. Adults expect a child to follow the guidance of her parents. Tapeinos is related to meizon through the perception of expected behavior. A child doesn’t concern himself with his own importance. He doesn’t vie for position. A child does what he is told to do (at least that is the expectation).
Who is important in the Kingdom? The one who, like a child, leaves the question of importance to someone else. Who is important? The one who does what he is asked to do without regard to status. Who is important? The one who defers to another’s leading.
How important are you? Ask those around you if you act like a child.
Topical Index: greatest, meizon, humility, tapeinos, child, Matthew 18:4
Wednesday, July 08th, 2009 | Author: Skip Moen
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; Philippians 2:3
Humility – Aristotle established the spirit of our age with his declaration that whatever prevents the development of virtue makes a person tapeinos (humble). Just read that once more. Aristotle is arguing that humility works against human development. If we want to become someone, we need to get rid of tapeinophrosune (humility). No wonder the gospel was cultural revolution. It literally turned the world upside-down. No educated Greek would ever imagine that God wanted people to become servants, slaves and lowly of heart. By the way, neither do any of the icons of our contemporary culture. We are the tail end of the Greek civilization, and the worldview hasn’t changed. The world wants its day on the stage. Fame and fortune are the most sought-after goals of the population. The media saturates us with fame and fortune addiction. If Christians are going to be salt and light, they will need to take large daily doses of humility.
It’s important to note that the LXX (the Septuagint – Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture completed about 200 BC) uses the word tapeinos and related derivatives more often than the Greek literature itself. Hundreds of times we find a Hebrew word translated by tapeinos or a related word. Humility is at the very core of Hebrew thought while it is barely at the edge of Greek thinking. If you really want an instant assessment of the difference between someone with a Greek-based worldview and someone with a Hebrew-based worldview, just ask yourself if tapeinophrosune (humility) is visibly present. I said “visibly” because in Hebrew thought humility is not so much a state of mind as it is action. Humility shows itself in the way we behave. Claims of humility mean nothing unless there is visible demonstration.
Why is there such a disparity between the Greeks and the Hebrews on this characteristic? It’s simple – and perhaps a bit surprising. The Greeks believed that the goal of humanity was freedom. Therefore, they despised anything that seemed to restrict freedom. Since humility was associated with subjection, being made lowly and under authority, they rejected it. So does the culture of this age. Freedom for the Greeks, and for this age, means individual self-will. Whatever restricts my freedom is abhorrent. To put myself voluntarily under bondage to another is unthinkable. This same revulsion is part of the post-modern culture and is one of the reasons why a return to Torah-obedience is so often rejected. Even Christians refuse to accept the place of Torah-obedience, not because they are sinful but because they are really a product of the post-modern world. They truly believe that freedom means making up my own mind about my life.
The Bible, on the other hand, places all humanity under God. He is King of the Universe. We are His subjects. Therefore, humility before God sets us in proper relationship to Him. This reversal of worldly values is to be a consistent, demonstrable characteristic of a follower of the Way. It is almost an oxymoron of Christian existence. We are to be active proponents of humility. The only reason this isn’t self-contradictory is that our humility is not a personal showcase but rather a quality recognized by others. In God’s upside-down Kingdom, the humble are hidden until someone else notices their display of God’s character. The heroes of humility never wear “notice-me” name badges.
Topical Index: humility, tapeinos, tapeinophrosune, post-modern, Philippians 2:3