I'VE often thought that acquiring status in a community or in business is something like climbing a ladder. You start somewhere on the ladder and work up. Admittedly, this is a pretty heartless picture of where people stand in relation to one another. Some will be at the top and some at the bottom. I don't imagine Christ Jesus would have thought much of categorizing people according to their standing in society, though he met individuals all the time who were looking for recognition and status. On one of these occasions, Jesus was the guest at the home of a very prestigious man, a chief Pharisee. Jesus noticed how the invited guests were vying for the most honored places to sit. The Master told a short parable.1 He said that if one were ever asked to come to a wedding feast, he should choose the lowest place to sit -- the place for the least-honored guests. Then it would be up to the host to invite him to go up to a higher place. He closed the lesson by saying, ``For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.''
In the parable, the people who are lifted up are the ones who are humble, not the ones who scramble for prestige and position. Is getting more possessions, more recognition, more titles, what we should be aiming for? Is being in the top position in our group anything like the exaltation that Jesus was talking about?
One of the things Jesus may have been teaching was that our value in God's sight is not measured by human accomplishments but by the quality of our thinking and our lives.
Humility is an essential quality. But humility as a God-derived quality is more than showing deference toward others. Possessing true humility means acknowledging God as supreme. As we come to know God as infinite intelligence and power, we may also discover something about our own true status as His spiritual offspring. God creates every individual as the expression of His nature. This is what gives man immeasurable worth. The Psalmist said of the way God has created man, ``Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.''2
Being humble helps us understand God and our status as His creation, because it guides us away from thinking that our personality is our hope and source of success. Humility turns us to God to learn about who we really are as His spiritual expression. Though our current way of looking at life may identify man as a mortal gaining status by making his way up in society or business or politics, the man that God has made can't be evaluated by a linear model. Nor does he have to participate in a contest for greatness. God impartially gives man His own qualities to express, such as love and wisdom. These spiritual qualities not only give us a feeling of worth, they promote progress.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``All men shall be satisfied when they `awake in His likeness,' and they never should be until then. Human pride is human weakness. Self-knowledge, humility, and love are divine strength.''3
Learning humility doesn't mean that we will have to be satisfied with less accomplishment in our lives. In fact, aren't some of the people who have achieved greatness in their lives very humble? Maybe instead of comparing ourselves to others, we can think of our spiritual identity as our worth. Then we won't be inclined to rank ourselves in terms of who has the most status, but we'll be satisfied and confident with what we really are. The perception and day-by-day living of our Godlike nature impel genuine progress. They impart true worth.
1See Luke 14:7-11. 2Psalms 8:5. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 358.