A Right View of Man on Earth
This study is going to be about Christian humility. We could also say that it’s related to the limits of honor and exaltation that might ever be proper for a Christian in this life. There is a place for making rules about specifics when it comes to expressions of luxury, expenses that are obviously unprofitable and unnecessary, and the various ways that people in the church might try to exalt themselves to get attention or applause or to seek vainglory somehow. But in this study we’re going to focus on the heart a Christian should have about matters related to this. Getting insight into that can help us in many, many ways. And that would include knowing when and if doing this, or having that, is definitely improper for a Christian or not. And I think it is also a major help to being content and seeing whatever trials, or whatever mercies are before us, in their proper light. And quite possibly above all, it can simply help us have better Christian character and better trust in God no matter our circumstances AND no matter what others think about our circumstances. Hopefully the things we’ll look at here will not only protect us and give us better discernment, but also comfort us and strengthen us in doing the will of God.
Luke 17:1-10: “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. 5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. 7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
So Jesus gives a hard command to follow here- and this causes His disciples to ask Him to increase their faith. It was basically like they were saying, How can we possibly do this?! And in verse 6 Jesus basically tells them them that they don’t need this great, unattainable type of faith to do what God commands. And then in verses 7 to 10 He gives them an illustration to help them have the faith that they actually need to do what He says. And it boils down to the fact that before God we should be His servants- and indeed see ourselves as His servants in truth. This implies that His satisfaction supersedes our own wants and desires. We have needs, we have wants, but the Master’s satisfaction is more important. Some people say that to be a Christian you must give up your rights- but this is not altogether true. A Christian has rights which often he can, and sometimes must, exercise- but what is true is that we must view any right which we might have in its proper place. The servant has a right to eat; but not when the Master is hungry. Even if the servant has worked much for the Master in the field, when he comes in and the Master tells him to prepare dinner, he has to prepare it and serve the Master before he eats his own dinner. And this is nothing extraordinary, the Master isn’t being too harsh and the servant isn’t being generous in obeying Him to the point where he is doing his Master some favor. And Jesus is basically saying that if you find a commandment of God hard and you need faith to do what God says, believe and take to heart this illustration. When we see God in His proper place and ourselves in our proper place, that eliminates any place to think that what God commands is too hard or to think that we have any rightful cause to grumble in thinking that His commandment is unreasonable. And never, ever, not even in heaven’s glory will this fact ever change. We can even say that no one is going to be in heaven who contended with this fact on earth when there was temptation to go contrary to God’s commandments and their constraints.
Matthew 6:9-10: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Look at how the Apostle Paul basically summed the summary of the Gospel of Christ in the Book of Romans:
Romans 11:33-36: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
And along with these things, you know that we are commanded in the Book of Philippians to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. And this is said in light of what Christ did to save us and how God has raised Him up and given Him a name which is above every name so that every knee might bow to His name. And in the description of this is a truth that ought to define our attitude; and it’s directly related to what Jesus said about the Master and the Servant which we just read about there in Luke chapter 17. But this goes even deeper because it shows that even Christ Himself took this attitude in His humanity before His Father- and obviously, we ought to take this attitude before Him!
Philippians 2:1-16: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (notice how being a human and being servant are equated here): 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.”
And we are obviously then supposed to relate to the Father through Christ the Son in the same way that Christ related to His Father:
John 15:10 “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Hebrews 5:5-10: “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
So here are some things to consider in light of what we just read and the topic of this study.
Since no person is ever beyond needing to reckon themselves as a servant before God who must consider God’s will and God’s satisfaction before His own, and since every person is obligated to follow Christ who left heaven to be a servant not only to His Father, but in a way a servant of all mankind, then this would prove that any riches or honor that any man might ever have would need to be consistent with these goals to not be ungodly. And any glory or honor which was certainly inconsistent with these goals would have to be vainglory which ought to be despised. Galatians 5:24-26: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Philippians 3:18-19: “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”
Hence there is an aspect to modesty which might have nothing to do with sexual lust. When we think of modesty we should think of moderation. Not provoking others to sexual lust indeed is one aspect to that, but other aspects are not showing off, not seeking to make ourselves the center of attention, not abusing the things of earth, not provoking others to competition or shaming others by our wealth, etc.
1 Timothy 2:8-10: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Peter 3:3-5: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands” Remember the harlot’s attire in Revelation ch 17. 1 Cor 7:29-31: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” 1 Cor 11:20-22: “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.”
Even Israel’s King, who was meant to be a picture of Christ in His glory, had restraints put on him by the Law of God in terms of obtaining riches and other expressions of power. He even had to write out his own copy of God’s Law, something other men did not have to do. This was so he’d be reminded that he is still just a man despite his position, is still not only a servant, but even especially a servant due to the advantages and opportunities he has to do righteousness and to help the needy in his position as a king.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20: “When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; 15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. 17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”
If we are brought low and we are restricted in our service to God by poor health, by poverty, or by obligations which we have no control over, then we should know that opportunity for release from our low state would likely bring upon us more obligations and responsibilities towards God. And likewise, if God exalts us and/or gives us much, then we are all the more indebted to Him and to our fellow men. We have greater obligations regarding service and faithfulness which we are accountable for. There is NEVER any great blessing or fortunate circumstance which a person might righteously attain which doesn’t in some way increase His obligations and accountability before God.
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48b) “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. 23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Cor 7:21-23) “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
It seems good to say here that there are individuals who find themselves in circumstances with great poverty and/or affliction of some kind who also find themselves with many great responsibilities and obligations anyways. And those in such a case should remember that if they are truly faithful God will make it up to them in due time- because He is gracious. They are quite possibly storing up treasure in heaven at an accelerated rate and building Christian character likewise. And should they find greener pastures in this life they are especially going to need the lessons that they are learning now to carry them through then. There are likewise lessons which we need to comprehend and hold onto should our lives abound with blessings that we will need going forward whether those blessings continue or whether we should be abased and brought low. Christian contentment is a tricky course- and we need lessons from when we lack to carry us when we abound; and likewise we need the lessons that we ought to learn if we abound to carry us whenever we should lack.
Philippians 4:10-13: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Some practical lessons then:
- We should always remember that riches tend to bring great problems. And rich people still get sick, rich people still die in car accidents, rich people still can be in great physical pain. We should never think that lots of money will make us happy or make our lives much easier or even make our spiritual lives easier, even though more money can be a great blessing when we really don’t have enough. Those who have never lived in America should know that being in America can bring great problems. Having genuine Christian breakthroughs for the better is not the norm for those who come to America from other countries. Very far from it. That’s not to say that no one ever comes here in God’s will- but if it happens, it is a great test and trial. And understand that Americans have their own obstacles to serving God and those who come to western countries from poorer countries often lose great opportunities to serve God where they had been -and also gain a lot of added temptation and stresses.
— No one is ever beyond things like sweeping and cleaning toilets. There might be times when such things might be our main jobs.. This gives us an especially great opportunity to learn Christian humility. But even when such things are not our regular jobs, we are NEVER too great for such jobs. And beyond that, doing such jobs is never some great act of humility. For Christ obviously doing such things was a great act of humility, but not for us. And amazingly, even Christ in glory is in many ways still a servant! Luke 12:35-38: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
- There is great power for God’s kingdom, in as much as it’s possible and as much as it’s not inappropriate, in being like others in terms of being on the same level. And that doesn’t mean descending morally towards the immoral, but it does mean if there is a difference in our economic or social status, that we don’t flaunt it (show it off) if we are better off; and that we don’t show resentment or any malice if we are worse off. That much at least is sure possible. Hebrews 2:16-18: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (come to the aid of) them that are tempted.”
- We have a duty to consider others in their low estate, their weaknesses, and their present emotional state- and to act appropriately towards them considering these things.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
Romans 12:15-16: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”
And obviously though there are aspects to sinners which we should not identify with nor sympathize with, we should not be envious at them and remember that no matter how well they seem to be doing and no matter how happy they seem, there are miseries related to sin as well as general problems of life which they face which make their lives far from wonderful. And that is not even considering the Judgment Day and eternity which they are not currently ready for as they travel on the broad road of sin. In an interview with a popular musician I’ve heard, he sarcastically said to his band-mate as they finished listening to their recent album “Those guys must be having a blast.” Riches, fame, material comfort, etc are truly not as great as they seem to those without such.
- When in doubt about what we ought to do and/or where we ought to go, we do well to take the low seat. And that can take a lot of different forms, but the most obvious thing about the passage where Jesus spoke of this is that we shouldn’t thrust ourselves into places and situations with the intent of receiving things like recognition and honor or money. There are plenty of ways to serve God out of the spotlight. We should strive to be faithful before God in secret and in places and situations where faithfulness isn’t glamorous or considered too honorable. Being faithful in these situations and learning not to waver in obedience might put someone in a situation where doing so thrusts them into the spotlight despite their best attempts to avoid it otherwise. Consider David going to fight Goliath as an example. God’s honor and Israel’s security were REALLY at stake. But this was a dangerous job that no one else wanted and no sane person would ever do it who hadn’t been faithful in secret and seen how God was strong on their behalf as they went forward in doing well before Him, seeking His honor and glory.
- A lot of people need to be abased; some people need to see themselves as not as miserable as they might seem at the moment. It’s important then to recognize the weak, frail, temporal status of EVERY individual, rich or poor, strong or weak, great or small or whatever other contrast we might make. We all have an appointment with death and with God on Judgment Day. You think you’re special, this is you. You think you’re not so special, you have the same appointment as the real rich person or the real strong or the really beautiful person or whatever person who seems to have whatever you think you lack. In reality, every living person is a miserable temporal person headed for death. The one and only way to find glory and honor and peace beyond the temporal, momentary terrestrial glory of fallen man is to identify with Christ in death to sin and self interest to do God’s will by keeping His Word. Suffering for the sake of righteousness on the terms of the Holy God of Scripture is what the natural man shutters and squirms at and will go to maybe any length to avoid. And yet that is his only hope out of the death trap of life to a happy resurrection on the other side and an incorruptible glory which will not fade away!
James 4:14: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
Revelation 6:12-17: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Psalm 39:4-6: “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am. 5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. 6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.”
Psalm 103:15-18: “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; 18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”
- And the last point which we’ll look at on this topic is: Nothing we would ever have to do to walk righteously before God and to faithfully navigate our course to run the Christian race faithfully could, or should, ever be justly considered unreasonable.
Hebrew 12:1-3: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Brother Aaron can be reached at [email protected]