In Numbers 12:3 we encounter a funny verse:
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
If you hold to the traditional interpretation that the first five books of the Bible were written by Moses, then it looks as though Moses is saying this about himself. At the very least, it sounds immodest. At worst, it sounds like a disqualifier – since how can you praise your own humility without ceasing to be humble?
I am a big fan of humility. In fact, its opposite, pride is the great instant disqualifier if ever I am thinking of working with or hiring someone, and the more experience of ministry I have, the more set I am on this opinion.
Pride says, “I know best”
Pride says, “I have no need of others”
Pride says, “I don’t need to consult.”
Pride says, “I am not proud. I am just right.”
Pride says, “Compared to others, I’m fantastic”
Humility says, “My knowledge and experience are limited”
Humility says, “I am better with others than I am on my own”
Humility says, “I may be wrong, so I’d better ask for advice”
Humility says, “I can be proud, so I need to guard against it.”
Humility says, “Compared to Jesus, I have a long way to go”
The Bible consistently warns against the danger of pride, yet I’ve seen in ministry, both first-hand, and at a distance, that churches often employ people in senior positions who do not have an attitude of humility, but demonstrate pride and arrogance in their leadership.
Why is that? Why do we tend to look for typical bombastic CEO types, when we are engaged not in a business but in a spiritual enterprise, the goal of which is personality transformation that we may become more like Christ?
Perhaps Lee Iacocca and “Chainsaw” Al Dunlop were what certain businesses needed, but should we ever reward arrogance in the church? It seems to me that many churches are willing to overlook such glaring character flaws, such an extreme lack of certain fruit of the Spirit (patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control) if the “right” results are being achieved, usually denoted by increased attendance and giving.
Now hear me correctly on this. I’ve got no problem with increased attendance and giving, but not at the cost of character.
I do find it somewhat amazing that churches with people like this in charge do grow, and do experience God’s blessing. I’m guessing that God is more concerned at that moment with blessing his people, than disciplining a minister. Naturally, I’m glad God does not require character perfection before using us, because if he did, who could stand?
My church celebrated its 75th anniversary yesterday, and what was notable was that although there were honorable mentions of significant people in the history of the church, the overarching theme was the faithfulness of God, and what he had done from such small beginnings. We did honor “man” but we definitely gave the glory to God.
May God continue to grow us, as a church, yes, but as individuals even more, that we might more clearly represent his Son, whose humility and grace were so evident, even at his birth. Some leaders may like to enter on a big stage; our Lord entered into a feeding trough for animals. Food for thought.
Oh, and Moses. I think what we see with him is a right estimation of himself, stated without pride or swelling up.
Romans 12:3 says this:
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
The secret here is not to think too highly, or too “low-ly” of ourselves, but to see ourselves from God’s perspective. In fact, I wrote a book on this very subject (shameless book plug follows)… If God Had a Fridge, Your Picture Would Be On It.
May you see yourself as God sees you today, and live accordingly.