Today Jesus says: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Humility is a quality that usually receives universal approbation. Few in today’s world would condemn genuine humility—we all consider it to be an admirable feature of someone’s personality (especially someone who enjoys great success).
We tend to admire and to appreciate humility because we think that our purpose in life is to be a good person. “I am a good person”—this is something we frequently say to ourselves and to others. Granted, nobody is perfect. But—we say tell ourselves—those who admit to their imperfections and weaknesses can claim personal goodness because of their humility and authenticity.
Our self-reflective thought process often proceeds like this: We do our best to live a good life—to be a good person. But God knows our limits. He knows our weaknesses. The Lord accepts us as his simple servants. And if we are sincere in our efforts to be good people, he will reward us with his favor in heaven. He gives us his mercy if we sincerely try to live a good life and—in humility—admit when we fail to live up to our personal ideals and potential.
Although this line of thought may be quite sincere, there is a major problem: the above reflection is completely and totally contrary to the gospel—the “good news”—of Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus did not come to make us “good people.” Jesus did not come to exhort us in our own goodness. He does serve as a spiritual personal trainer who aids us in our quest for attaining virtue and spiritual health in ourselves. Not at all. Jesus came to give us something far better than our own personal goodness. Jesus gives us his own goodness. Jesus gives us himself.
Jesus is our salvation.
Jesus does not want us merely to live our lives more sincerely. Rather, Jesus wants us to live his life completely. The only way to heaven is to find our life and identity in Christ’s life and identity—to share fully in his infinite goodness. Why is union with Jesus the only way to heaven? The answer is simple: heaven is nothing other than union with Jesus. Jesus, himself, is the good news he came to impart to us. God himself is the gospel.
Jesus calls us into deep intimacy with him. He invites us to enjoy life with him—to share in his life. Jesus does not invite us to be his servants, but rather to be his closest friends.
And Jesus gives all of himself to his friends.
Many of us, today, forget the radical love contained in the gospel message. We believe that Jesus primarily wants to help us to live our own lives better. We overlook the fact that he came to do something infinitely better than fix own lives: Jesus gives us his life.
This is why humility is so important in the Christian life. The truly humble person recognizes that their own goodness is insufficient. No saint lives by their own goodness alone. All saints live in and through the goodness of God. The truly humble person lives in and through the goodness of Jesus. And in Jesus, all find true and saving goodness.
“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Those who humble themselves are exalted, because those who stop trying to live in and through themselves are finally able to live in and through Jesus. And those who live in and through Jesus truly enjoy all of the exalted goodness of Our Lord himself.
Jesus is the gospel. He is the good news. Jesus is our salvation. In him, all are exalted.