Lessons From The Mountain – Humility
Jesus departed to the mountain to get away from the crowds (Matthew 5:1). It was there, when the disciples followed Jesus, that He began to teach them (Matthew 5:2). It’s often at these quiet places with the Lord that we find the most sustaining truths from Him. We don’t need a special revelation to hear from God, we have His word. The word teach means “to give instruction,” and that’s what Jesus began to do with the disciples. These instructions (truths) weren’t easy. They would shatter the current thinking of their day. But this is what God’s word does to us as we learn from it.
The first 12 verses of “the beatitudes” were ground shaking to the disciples. It was unlike anything they had ever heard. Let’s be honest, there are many “evangelical” churches in the west today where these truths, if proclaimed rightly, would be earth shattering too. Each beatitude seems to build on the previous. The first instruction Jesus gave was concerning pride. When He said, “blessed” which means “happy” it was unfamiliar to the disciples. Blessed are you when you are humble. Humbleness not only goes against the nature of our flesh but against the cultural status as well. To be humble is to be weak, according to the world. But we don’t live according to the world.
To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God. When we consider our external works as righteous, we have severely failed. The main thought of the day was external behavior was a sign of holiness. This was the primary motive of the religious leaders (Matthew 5:20). Thinking of yourself as good, righteous and moral based upon your actions was the norm for the day. Jesus broke that with the first words to the disciples. Humility is the first step. Without it, one cannot be used of God. Apart from Jesus Christ, every person is destitute. No hope. No cleanliness. No holiness. It does not matter one’s education, social status or wealth, without Christ there is no hope.
Therefore, the first step is humbleness. We see this in Luke 18:9 as pride is a killer to spiritual life, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.” The preface to this parable was for those who “trusted in themselves.” This is the most dangerous place a person can be. Assuming they themselves have something to offer God that He will accept. The remaining text in that parable describes a man who has done much himself and isn’t like others…yet Jesus said the sinner, who would not lift his eyes to heaven, was justified before him. Jesus concluded this parable in Luke 18:14 “this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The lesson of pride is an eye opener.
Everyone has a problem with humbleness in some form or another. We don’t want to admit we are wrong. The issue of the day was spiritual pride. This was the heart of what Jesus was getting at. It is the first step our Lord addresses on the mountain. If pride is present, then none of the other following beatitudes will be. Pride won’t lead to mourning nor meekness. And it certainly won’t lead to a hunger and thirsting for righteousness.
Dr. John MacArthur in his commentary on this text lists a few principals for humility. First, you must turn your eyes off yourself and look to God. Realizing you are depraved and helpless is the first step to being saved and being used of God. Second, we must starve the flesh by removing the things that feed it. Stop looking for accolades and praise for what you do. This fuels the pride of life. This gives credence to you doing something. Third, we should ask God for it, Psalms 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” God stands ready to give to us humbleness; we must ask for it.
Finally, we know we don’t deserve His mercy and realize we are weaned from ourselves as a source of strength. When we are humble in spirit (poor), we lower our estimation of our self. The greatest danger we all face is ourselves. When we realize who we are and who God is, and that we are helpless in our own might, He becomes exalted. Pride is a killer of humility. Pride has kept many people from the eternal home of heaven. In 1 Peter 5:6-8, the Scripture says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” because “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion.” Don’t let pride take you out and have you slaughtered. Humbleness is the first step towards being blessed.