Humility vs. Ego

Was Jesus egotistical? A friend and I were discussing this recently in the context of egotism in the church. It seems that when we speak our minds, particularly in a church or ministry context, we are often accused of being “egotistical”. I find this very interesting.

Let us consider for a moment what it means to be egotistical. Egotism refers to one’s perception of oneself being higher than it ought to be. In other words, it is an inflated sense of self. The extreme of egotism is narcissism, which is the pursuit of one’s goals at the expense of everything and everyone else.

I have witnessed plenty of egotism in this world and even in worship ministry. Here are a few examples I have observed:

  • vying for position in a worship team in order to gain power;
  • playing or singing in such a way that no-one else can get a word – or note – in edgeways;
  • ignoring others’ suggestions because their way is always right;
  • using worship ministry to further their own musical career;
  • taking all the opportunities to play, thereby preventing others from growing; and
  • spitting the dummy publicly when challenged.

This brings me to Jesus. Jesus is our model for humility, but I reckon our contemporary culture might mistake some of his actions for egotism. Think about it:

  • Jesus was very sure of himself and had an ever-growing following (until he got crucified);
  • Jesus attacked the church leaders of his day;
  • Jesus aggressively drove profiteers out of his temple;
  • Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins; and
  • Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.

Jesus was confident in his calling. He knew who he was and he knew what his Father wanted him to do. Jesus was single-minded in his focus and he pursued his calling at the expense of everything else. I wonder whether Jesus would be considered egotistical in the eyes of our modern society.

Was Jesus egotistical? Of course not. His model of humility was one that demonstrated servitude at the heart of all his actions. He was sure of himself and he set about obeying God rather than his own desires. That is a countercultural kind of humility.

For some of us, we were raised to believe that humility is something else entirely:

  • self-denigration;
  • saying no to opportunities or invitations to serve;
  • prompting others to serve instead of us;
  • believing that we are somehow lesser than others; and
  • believing we are unworthy of God’s calling.

In a nutshell, many of us have grown up to believe that humility means you think you suck. That is not humility. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we suck. God does not think we suck. We are sinful, flawed, blind and prone to temptation, yes, but not unworthy of God’s calling.

Jesus knew what God had called him to do. Jesus knew he was loved and accepted by God. Jesus was confident in his Father, rather than in himself. I think this is a great model of humility.

Next time you speak up, trust in God and the way he has made you. Speak with confidence in your Father’s love. Speak with wisdom, grace and boldness. Speak with Christ’s humility.

 

How were you raised to think about humility? How do others respond when you voice your opinion?

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