The Wisdom of Humility

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This passage is a follow up on yesterday’s. It takes yesterday’s text into another realm. It reveals the wisdom of God in its most ironic sense, the sense that bothers those who think in the ways of the world the most. Its irony is revealed in the virtue of humility.

ʺConsider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.ʺ

The world is full of those who claim their own greatness. The worldly wise, the worldly powerful, and those of ‘noble birth,’ often consider the uneducated, the weak, and the hoi poloi as beneath them, or worse, they use such as these for their own aggrandizement economically, socially, and/or, politically. This was true in the time of the Apostles and it remains true today. But God had and still has other plans. Because of pride, sin and suffering entered human history. The redemption of the world and the forgiveness of sins would come only through humility. Christ was the sign of contradiction to the world. He was the ironic answer to the fallen world. He was humility itself. He was born in a poor, unimportant village, and right from the very beginning of his life the rich, the powerful and the nobility tried to get rid of him. This itinerant rabbi made the halls of political and religious power tremble with rage, for they could not compete with the wisdom of his living message. Even though they put him to death, they were defeated by his unconquerable truth. The lowly and despised, the weak, and those who were not wise, or considered educated by human standards, could not be defeated by threat or by the sword. Their faith in Christ Jesus humbled the powers of both Rome and Jerusalem. The Roman empire fell into a decadence born from the hubris of human ‘wisdom,’ while Christianity flourished and grew from the blood of so many simple martyrs. The faith that Jesus began and that the Spirit built in and through these lowly ones remains alive and well and continues to grow even in this modern age of reason.

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The wisdom of the world, more often than not, is defined by some specific and limited ideology of one kind or another. It is a great irony that the naturally narrow claims of the prideful ego, or those of today’s identity politics, which claim to possess absolute wisdom, are really the causes of most of the suffering in the world. Sometimes this arrogance reveals itself simply in the audacious claim that wealth, fame, power, or science, are the be-all-and-end-all of wisdom and the height of human achievement. A clear contradiction to this is the humility of Christ, who revealed the wisdom of God in the flesh. He showed the world that love, forgiveness, patient endurance, mercy and humble sacrifice are the only powers that can redeem the world.

Christians know by faith that the only legitimate boasting a human being can do is in the humble recognition that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nothing else can compare. Our boasting comes from our humble recognition that we are loved by God. It is only in our humility, our smallness, our weakness, indeed, our foolishness that we can boast before God. For ʺIt is due to him that we are in Christ Jesus, who is the wisdom of God.ʺ It is only in him that we can become righteous, sanctified and redeemed. That is our only boast. We do not boast in ourselves but in Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Lord, teach us the wisdom of your humility every day. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.