The greatest virtue

Father David Epps's picture

“Virtue” is a word not heard much anymore. One definition of the word is “any admirable quality or attribute; ‘work of great merit.’” If there is any one virtue that is greater than the others, that virtue would, in my opinion, be “humility.”

There are several things that humility is not. Humility is not cowardice. It is not fear or guilt. It is not a false modesty. Humility is defined as a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”

It is common to see a distinct lack of humility in professional athletes, singers, musicians, celebrities, politicians, and even preachers.

A number of years ago one TV preacher boldly proclaimed that if he didn’t win the world to Christ, it wouldn’t get done. That is a distinct lack of humility and a grossly over-inflated estimate of one’s importance.

I saw an ad the other day proclaiming that a certain church is “not your grandmother’s church.” Well, that may be, but the ad stills smacks of a lack of humility. It says, to me at least, “We are better than all those other old fogey churches out there.”

The truth is that a church is only a Church “where two or three are gathered in His Name,” whether that church is large, small, liturgical, charismatic, evangelical, whether the ministers wear vestments, coats and ties, or polo shirts, and whether or not it meets in a home, a bar, a funeral home, a movie theater, under a tree, or in a cathedral.

What makes a church a Church is the presence of God in the midst of His people. It is in Him that we boast, if we dare to boast at all.

The example of humility is set by Jesus who “thought not equality with God a thing to be grasped,” but emptied himself and became humble and obedient even to the point of death on a cross. In Philippians 2:5, believers are instructed to have this same attitude of humility. Humility is even required by God: “...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly ...” (Micah 6:8 NASB).

All this seems to run against the grain in a world where success is measured by acclaim, accolades, recognition, and applause. Everyone, it seems, is in a quest for their own personal “greatness.”

This quest, interestingly, is an honorable one; even a biblical one. It is the path to greatness that becomes either the problem or the solution.

If one has to back-stab, undercut others, inflate one’s resume, brag about our heritage or our connections, disregard and discard other people, and walk upon the bodies of others to win at all costs, this becomes a significant problem. The biblical path to greatness is found in humility.

Both Proverbs 15:33 and Proverbs 18:12 teach that humility comes before honor. The rewards of humility, says the world’s wisest man, are “riches, honor, and life” (Proverbs 22:4 NASB).

Jesus caught his followers having an argument about which one of them was the greatest. He corrected their thinking by saying that the person who wanted to become great must be the servant of all. He went on to compare a life of humility with that of a waitress or waiter whose role is to meet the needs and comfort of others. Perhaps if we desire to see true humility, and that which leads to greatness, we should pay careful attention to those who are excellent servers at restaurants.

Humility is not something we pray for or study to attain. It is a choice. We choose to lay down pride and arrogance, we choose to underestimate our own importance, we choose to pay careful attention to the needs and comforts of others, we “clothe ourselves” with humility.

It’s not an easy choice or a comfortable road to travel on. But the path to greatness is never easy.

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Submitted by sageadvice on Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:15pm.

modest, humble, meek, unimportant in own eyes, rankless, not proud, subservient, unpretending, common or poor, a lowly parish priest, dirty-faced-low-birth.

Non-speaking Monks come to mind, as examples.

Humility not even considered a VIRTUE by republicans!

The question is: does one bring religion and worship to another by humility or by shock and awe?

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