That’s Beneath Me
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . Ephesians 3:8
I grew up knowing that my faith commanded me to do good things for God. So, I went to church and I was generally nice to people. I always remembered Jesus’ story in Matthew 25 though, where he commanded us to feed the hungry, help the sick, and visit those in prison. I never liked that passage because I didn’t want to do any of those things. If I had to obey, I desired to do lofty things for God. Maybe I could be a physician for the rich and famous. When I thought of bumping elbows with the incarcerated and homeless though, my desire to follow God’s will waned. I don’t want to do that. Those people are gross. That’s beneath me.
God must have a sense of humor. My job now takes me every week to jail, treatment centers, and most recently, into a homeless shelter. What’s changed? What happened to the pride that prevented me from obeying God’s plan? I’d like to say that I simply chose humility, but I think it’s safer to say that I’ve been humbled by my drug addiction. In recovery now, I do still struggle with pride, but it was only in realizing that I was no better than those I looked down upon, that I’ve been able to begin to obey.
This was Paul’s message in today’s passage. In it, he embraced humility, referring to himself as the least of all the saints. Paul, as an apostle, possessed significant authority. He didn’t let that go to his head though. He remained humble and accepted that God sent him to the gentiles. As a Jew, this was not a desired assignment. At some point, he had to find being a missionary to non-Jews to be beneath him. In his humility though, he saw it as a privilege to be part of God’s plan to reach all of humanity.
Most of us have been here. We’ve all looked down on someone. Maybe it’s the alcoholic, homeless man on the corner. Maybe it’s an obnoxious neighbor. Whoever it is, we refuse to reach out to them because we consider them beneath us. In our pride, we’re useless to God. Paul’s message though, is that we’re not better than anyone else. Only in seeing our own flaws and embracing humility, can we recognize this truth, and begin to follow God’s plan. In doing so, we will experience a joy and peace that we could never find in our toxic pride.