Spiritual Discipline of Humility

Jesus makes it impossible to think you’re righteous because of what you do.

After Matthew introduces who Jesus is in his book, he dives right in to report Jesus’ teaching. I say report because much of chapters 5-7 are quotes.

I have been returning to Matthew this year and also Mark to search out just Jesus’ words. Not the stories or drama. Or to pick on poor Peter. I thought that this year I’d throw out the theologies and commentaries and just focus on his words.

You can read these chapters as a set of instructions. Remembering that the Pharisees also had a set of instructions. Or they called them “Laws.” It was like a checklist of things to do today. Except that for the Pharisees it was a checklist of about 630 items. Imagine trying to check those off every day!

So, looking at Jesus’ words. His checklist in Matthew is smaller. But then stop and contemplate what he’s saying:

  • If you’re angry at someone, it’s the same thing as murder
  • If you obtain an easy divorce, not only you commit adultery, you force your spouse to do so as well
  • If you hate your enemy, so what, that’s easy; love your enemy
  • If someone forces you to carry their packs (think Roman soldiers) for a mile, carry it two
  • If someone asks for a small thing, give them a big thing
  • And there is more…

When you look at Jesus’ checklist, it’s impossible to do on your own. Even more impossible than that of the Pharisees.

This is all leading up to a conclusion–it’s all about the status of your heart. Is your heart cold and methodical? Just intent in checking off the list so that God will think you’re great? Or is your heart focused on God?

You cannot checklist your way to righteousness (being right with God). That means you cannot compare yourself to others, saying ‘I’m better than those sinners.’ No, you cannot do that.

Changing your heart’s focus from self (ego) toward God with the outlook of helping others–that is called humility and that is the path to righteousness.

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