Archive for category humility

Whose Way Will It Be?

A recent survey of British funeral directors revealed a significant change in the choices families made when arranging memorial services for their loved ones. Last year, 70% of funerals had replaced traditional hymns with pop music. The list of the most used tunes ranged from old standards to hits from recent years (including a dash of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Adele). That’s not the most concerning aspect of this survey.

frank-sinatraThe most popular track at funerals (played at 15% of them) was My Way by Frank Sinatra. The song was originally written in French and reworked into English by Paul Anka. Even now, the tune is probably echoing in your mind. (I apologize if it stays there too long and annoys you later.) While that’s not my favorite tune by “Ol’ Blue Eyes”, it is a very well known song that speaks of triumph over adversity. There’s certainly nothing wrong with living a full life with few regrets.

What is troubling is the underlying theme of the song – especially when chosen for a memorial service. Think of it…having the final statement of your entire life summarized by an unyielding reliance upon self. Far too many act as if we answer only to ourselves. In fact, we invite trouble into our lives when we do things “our way.” The Bible describes in detail the failure of doing what is right in one’s own eyes…of failing to submit to an Almighty God.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
and did it my way! 

I’m all for strong character and firm convictions, but God’s Word reveals that the wisest move we ever make is to bow to the One who has created us. In contrast to Sinatra’s bold declaration, the psalmist asks a related question:

Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him!
or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!
Psalm 144:3

May we each learn to yield our will to God’s. Only when we act in humble obedience will we experience His greatest blessings on our lives.

Schadenfreude and Spirituality

Gary Shelton, a veteran sports writer, wrote an article in today’s St. Pete Times entitled “Misplaced Distaste.”  In it, he asks why so many people are rooting for Tim Tebow to fail in the NFL.  In fact, why does anyone outside Florida or Colorado even care how the 25th pick of the 2010 draft performs?  Few of the Tebow haters would recognize the name Demaryius Thomas, much less care about his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury.  (The Broncos picked him three places ahead of Tebow in the 2010 draft.)

I do not write as a Gator fan or assume that Tebow needs my defense.  That’s what an offensive line is for.   However, when so many spew venom and hatred toward a backup quarterback in Denver, I agree that something strange is afoot.  Shelton offers no definitive answer for what motivates the hatred.  I think I can offer a reasonable suggestion.  Two, in fact.

The first factor is schadenfreude – the concept of pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.  Our society continues to cultivate a hyper-competitive attitude in every aspect of life.  No longer is the other team a rival or opponent.  Now they must be an enemy.  Beyond even that spirit is a growing desire to see the successful fail.  It makes us feel better about our personal inadequacies or failures.  Perhaps it began during grade school recess.  That’s when you first realized that if you couldn’t make yourself look better, you could always make fun of or draw attention to someone else’s weakness to level the playing field.  So every time Tebow throws an interception the armchair quarterbacks of the world scoff, “See, he’s not so good.”

That same statement points to a second motive for the hatred.  Mention Tim Tebow and hearers think first of his success leading the Gators’ football team. However, inseparably linked to his name are missionary efforts, a firm stand against abortion, Bible verses written on his eyeblack,  and a testimony of salvation through Christ alone.  Tebow is considered a spiritual person; specifically, the born-again Christian type.

Nobody gives a second thought to an athlete who points heavenward after a touchdown or thanks God in a winning locker room.  After all, it cost him nothing and may mean even less.  The same applies to actors and musicians when they speak with an award trophy in their hands.  Everyone knows it is much more difficult and likely more genuine when one acknowledges God after a loss.  Yet, Tebow seems to be in a different category, where one’s faith matters on and off the field.

I’ve never met him, so like everyone else, I must rely on what I read and watch in the media.  Shelton, like many sports writers, points out that Tebow is genuinely what society claims to expect from its true heroes; “humble, charitable, hard-working, scandal-free.”  On top of that, he is quick to credit Jesus Christ as the source for whatever may be good and right in his life.  An unbelieving world can’t wait for him to fall.

The more genuine someone appears, the more others want it exposed as something less.  The more devout the claims, the more intense the scrutiny.  When the hidden sins of a pastor, athlete, or politician who professes salvation are exposed some celebrate.  They sit in the same armchair and pronounce, “See, he’s not so good.  I told you it was all a scam.”  For that moment, their accountability to God feels less imposing.  After all, if a professing Christian is less than genuine, perhaps Christianity itself is.  This should serve as a solemn reminder to every child of God that our testimony matters far more than we realize. Certainly, we live for the Lord, but we do so before others.

Again, I am no rabid Gator/Bronco fan.  However, I will root for any genuine believer to have an expanded platform from which to share the Gospel, display a consistent testimony, and advance the cause of Christ.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s on the gridiron, in an office, or a classroom full of school desks.

Loud and Proud

After yesterday’s baseball game between the Red Sox and Angels, the umpires filed a formal complaint against the Los Angeles coaching staff. It seems the coaches were upset about a few close calls that went against them, and their conduct as the umps left the field was described as “unprofessional and unbecoming.” We are left to imagine what choice words were hurled at the officials. Rather than a noteworthy event, this becomes another in a growing list of ill-mannered incidents.

This week USA Today reflected on our society’s lack of politeness and civility after a few highly publicized episodes in a variety of arenas. Rep. Joe Wilson shouted down the President in a joint session of Congress. Serena Williams launched a profanity-laced attack on a line judge at the US Open to contest a call. Kanye West hijacked the stage during an awards show acceptance speech to redirect recognition away from the winner to his favorite nominee.

Every day we encounter arrogance and impoliteness that go unpublished. A driver shouts, gestures, or drives aggressively because of a perceived slight on the highway. High school athletes “trash talk” like the professional heroes they watch on television each week, rather than proving their mettle on the court or field. Children on the playground berate each other to make themselves feel and look a little better. Pick your favorite venue. It’s likely you will find a famine of humility and a surplus of self-importance. If we are not disciplined, we will find ourselves on the delivery end of such pride and incivility.

The prevalence of such conduct has also made us expert at justifying pride and rude behavior. While explaining the grievance against the Angels’ coaches, the spokesman for the World Umpires Association stated, “We recognize that in the heat of competition folks get heated up and make mistakes.” The Dallas Morning News opined that “passion can be used as a flimsy excuse for shameless self-entitlement.” Our list of excuses goes on and on. Perhaps we should address the heart of the matter instead of defending our misconduct.

David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote that humility has come under attack in recent decades and describes the prevalence of “expressive individualism.” Today, “instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within.” One result that he notes is that “immodesty is as ubiquitous as advertising.” Instead of recognizing God, we are consumed by self.

Apparently, this is not simply a contemporary problem. The Scriptures speak often of the destructive nature of pride and the blessings of humility. Priests and kings were prone to self-promotion. Even the Lord’s own disciples struggled with putting others first (Matt. 18:1; Luke 22:24).

The answer? More than just teaching good manners and politeness to our children, we must remember the biblical instruction concerning a proper attitude. The unchanging truth is that just as God hates pride and punishes it, He values humility and promises reward. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off” (Psa. 138:6).

As believers, it is our responsibility to lead the way and model Christlike humility. The world has no hope of seeing meekness in action if we do not provide the example. Fight the temptation to promote self and instead prefer one another (Rom. 12:1). The Lord promised, “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11). What better incentive do we need?

Today, I placed a small card that reads “Before Honour is Humility” (Prov. 15:33) on the dashboard of my car. This silent memo reminds me of the need to demonstrate the mind of Christ in my daily life and the reward that God has promised when I do.