The Power of Humility

How Jesus transforms our view of status in Matthew 18

By Karen McNary – BSF Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community 

I was about 10 years old when I had my eyes examined for the first time. I was able to function in school and sports activities, but slowly, and over time, my eyesight worsened. I didn’t notice my faulty vision, but my parents could see the difference. 

I’ll never forget how surprised and excited I was the first time I put on my new glasses. Before glasses, I only saw a plain brown door. Now I saw a brown door with beautifully textured wood grain. Trees that looked like a large green mass became beautiful, filled with unique, individually shaped leaves. Until my eye exam and glasses, I didn’t realize how incomplete my view of the world was and how much more there was to be seen. 

I needed a doctor and a diagnosis to see clearly. I needed the truth. I needed a solution.  

Like a doctor diagnosing a patient, Jesus is faithful to correct our spiritual vision. For the early Church, He spoke directly to their view of others. But Jesus doesn’t simply diagnose a problem. He offers a new view.  

Shifting Focus

For those who lived in the ancient near East, status was extremely important. Through the early Church’s cultural lens, social or political status determined greatness. Those associated with rank and position were revered. When disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” in Matthew 18:1, they were seeking a path to position, focusing on the value of their status among men.  

But Jesus offered a different view.  

Rather than defining greatness by the standards the disciples would have expected — accomplishments, reputation, and high rank — Jesus challenged them to view status through a biblical lens.  

In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

This teaching is true for us today. 

How we see and relate to each other must not be based on man-made systems. Instead, Jesus encourages us to view ourselves as little children.    

To become childlike, as Jesus said, is to view ourselves through eternal reality. Like children, we are helpless. The depth of our disobedience strips away our man-made, earthly status, leaving us equal under the weight of sin. Wealth and position can’t cover our trespasses. But through the sacrifice of our Savior, we find hope. Through Christ alone, we become children of God. Instead of striving for status, we can simply be grateful. Through this new view, we see serving as a privilege. We are just as honored to share in His sufferings as His blessings.  

Childlike humility can also be seen when we renounce any notions of self-importance. When we look through Jesus’ lens, we see no second-class citizenship based on ethnicity, no world ranking designation based on economics, nor a caste system that views some as superior based on birth. In Christ, all have the same status — daughter, son, friend, valued and greatly loved by a great God. 

Seeing through Jesus’ lens leads to being other centered, not causing others to stumble, and actively seeking the good of those who are vastly different. At the foot of the One who is righteous, we should be happy to surrender our right to be right.

Humility for The World to See

What influence for Christ could we have if the unbelieving world saw diverse believers relate to each other in this way?  

How can we begin to let go of our incomplete vision and put on the “glasses” of childlike humility?  

  • Accept entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven: Everybody enters the community in the same way — by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. All who believe in Him have access to the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom, and understanding of His Word. Only in Christ can we have corrected vision. The path is narrow, but open to all.

  • Allow God’s Word to examine you: How we approach God’s Word – either as a window examining others or as a mirror examining ourselves – matters. God’s Word encourages, equips, and uplifts, but  it also rebukes, corrects, and trains in righteousness. We need the whole counsel of God to be conformed to His image. 
    • Adjust behaviors based on God’s Word: God’s Word is meant to be lived, not just learned. We can trust the power of His Spirit to help see and live in a way that magnifies Him, matures us both individually and collectively, while also setting us apart from the rest of the world.  

    As cultures around us continue to become more chaotic and controversial, may we see clearly as Jesus sees, through a biblical lens, and live as He did in humility, forgiveness, and graciousness to enemies as well as friends.  

    Karen McNary

    Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community 

    Karen served as a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, Teaching Leader, Area Personnel and most recently as a Skills Coach for BSF prior to joining the staff in April 2021. She is originally from Louisville, Ky. and for the past 20 years has called  Charlotte, NC home.  She has been married to her husband, Keith, for  27 years, and together they parent three three young adult sons who attended the BSF School Program for many years.

     

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    169 Comments

    1. Approaching God’s word as a “window” or a “mirror “ ! What a profound idea. Thank you. I love the word of God and as I study it my tendency was never to picture myself but others as evil and undesirable… yes I need the “mirror “ approach to conform me to His image. Thank you Karen.

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    2. “What influence for Christ could we have if the unbelieving world saw diverse believers relate to each other in this way? ” Yes Yes Yes!!! So very true Sharon. Thank you.

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    3. Amen, very encouraging & helpful, thank you for these great truths on humility.

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    4. What helpful and timely words. Thanks Be To God for your giving of encouragement through them!

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    5. With every fear that is exposed comes humility, we can accept it or reject it.

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    6. “ God’s Word is meant to be lived, not just learned.” Amen to that!

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    7. Thanks for the comment on humility. I will try to be more humble is the future.

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    8. “God’s Word encourages, equips and uplifts, but it also rebukes, corrects and trains in righteousness. We need the whole counsel of God to be conformed to His image.” Indeed we do, we have been entrusted with God’s most prized possession, His children.

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    9. I’m so thankful I came to this site and read your blog. You put into words, that which my heart and mind needed to hear. Thank you!

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    10. God help us to see things through a biblical len and to live in humility

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    11. Excellent. Kind of wish I had read this prior to our group meeting on Chapter 18😊.
      Thank you for sharing your heart. Best wishes for your work for His Kingdom.

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    12. This helps to center me once again. In our modern culture it is so easy to walk away from the mirror and forget what we really look like. Well written and impactful. I wish every member of our government could read this blog as well. Surely the Spirit of God would arrest their hearts as He has done mine after reading Matt. 18 and your blog. What a life transforming challenge.

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    13. Why does our Lord value humbleness? Time and time again HE asked us to be humble and how HE hoped we could understand: it is when we think lowly of ourselves that we are blessed. I remember how a pastor compared David’s experiences. When the Poet became the king, he was so content and proud as to almost think that he was blessed because of his own righteousness when he said in Psalm 18,
      ‘The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
      For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
      For all his ordinances were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.
      I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.
      Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.’

      He was like a vessel full of his own righteousness into which God can pour HIS blessings no more. Therefore, God allowed him to fall down and had him emptied, and after he stumbled, he didn’t mention his righteousness any more, but said in Psalm 51,
      ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.’

      The moment when he saw his weakness and helplessness and humbled himself before God, he was to be filled with Lord’s blessings again. He was closer to God than before, with a heart humble and purified.

      A humble heart is not complaining but thanking God for everything as the undeserved grace; a humble heart is forgiving and accepting and respecting, knowing all relying on HIS grace otherwise helpless; a humble heart doesn’t judge or condemn that would never feel proud enough to do so.

      A humble heart trusts God in all circumstances knowing whatever HE grants is ‘the finest of the wheat’ and only when we are humble we taste and see Lord’s goodness. When Jobs blessed God by saying ‘Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’, he was humble and was blessed. Let us wake up to be humble and grateful, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.’

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      • thank you Karen for your article because of it E illuminated David’s path to humility which I had never seen. In community we learn & grow. Thanks

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    14. Thank you for your inspiring message, Karen. I’m relatively new to BSF and it is messages like yours that resonate deeply and keep me excited and grateful to be part of this much needed fellowship. I especially appreciate your comment that we are all “equal under the weight of sin.” If everyone could understand this and live accordingly, our world could grow in the virtue of humility and live forgiveness, love, and peace. So happy I found this page.

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    15. Very helpful as we complete our week’s study on Matthew 18. Thank you!

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    16. well said

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    17. Karen, your statement, “The depth of our disobedience strips away our man-made earthly status. . .” truly pictures for me our standing before a holy God without Christ. How glorious to be able to come as a little child and be clothed in His righteousness. Thank you.

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    18. in Jesus you find peace true you find peace he associates with you fellow believers who keep on encouraging you and when you approached with the feeling to sin the holy spirit keep on reminding you that it is sin. you will have a clear conscience that god does not like it .I feel it and eventually the bad feeling drifts away and I am saved by the holy spirit .He answers there and there but we do not perceive it immediately

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    19. Thank you! I really needed it.

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    20. Thank u for the insightful write up.
      “Allow God’s Word to examine me”
      When I started doing homiletics (Searching the Scriptures) some years back it was agony & I viewed it just as an an exercise I needed to complete. In time, with prayer & dependence on the Holy Spirit, the Word of God came alive for me. I now love going Ito God’s Word expectantly searching for how God seeks to change me. The application questions I now come up with are truly soul searching with the view to heart transformation from what I would have learnt from the week’s passage.

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      • Thank you for the encouragement to press on with homiletics. I am at the starting point you described!

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    21. Thanks Karen for these very insightful thoughts on humility and the challenge to approach God’s word as a mirror for examining ourselves. In continuous prayer for you.

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    22. The word of God is not meant to be learned only but to be lived. This year main focus is to read and study God’s word and BSF continues to b such a helpful tool. Everytime I read God’s word I pray for wisdom and knowledge, I pray for concentration, I pray that I may apply it in my life and I pray that I may share it with those around me. Dear Jesus, help me. Amen.

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    23. I loved your message about “God’s word is meant to be lived, not just learned.” There have been times when I felt that some of my fellow believers have missed “the mark” when it comes to God’s Word. This is a very powerful and spiritual message for all to read.

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    24. Thank you Karen for such an encouraging message with the truth and insight of Jesus’ vision. May this world enjoy peace and joy should the sight of all people be corrected to Jesus’ vision.

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    25. This is right on! While studying Matthew 17, I really listened to this song on CD, that I hear every morning.
      “Selfless”

      Chorus:
      Selfless, Lord help me to be selfless.
      Selfless, Lord grant me control.
      I want to be selfless, ‘cause full of ME I’m helpless,
      Lord fill me and permeate my soul.

      Everytime I walk in Him, I’m a winner.
      When I lean on me, I trip and fall.
      Using my own strength makes me a loser,
      With His power, I nearly conquer all.

      When I deal with others, I’m so evil, I’m so evil,
      If I do it with my earthly love,
      As I try my best to love all people
      It only works with help from God, above.

      CD album “TWENTY TOUR”, Ernie Couch & Revival,
      March 28, 1993, Nashville, TN w/20 guest artists
      Concepted and produced by Jason Couch

      I first heard and met this group at “Singing on the Mountain” at Grandfather Mt, North Carolina in 2011 or so. Loved Jason’s voice and their original lyrics and music

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    26. this is exactly what I needed to read

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    27. Thank You well written.

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    28. Excellent article! I am encouraged by the view on “all” people included in living the Christian walk not just the learning the walk. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.

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    29. True humility, to allow God’s word to examine me, the adjust my behavior based on God’s word and by the help of the Holy Spirit.

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      • Amen Risper!!

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    30. Power message – one that I needed so desperately in these chaotic times. I see so many young people destroying their lives and the lives of their family and other families. Thank you for these comforting words.

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    31. dear Karen thank you for your words I loved your words “Gods word is meant to be lived not just learned” i always tell my class members that when you do your lesson make sure you take time to consider the application questions they are important they are not to be answered and just left on the page as completed answers but rather to actually apply them to how we live our lives each and every day thank you i enjoyed your blog

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      • Great advice to your group Judy…. We’re called to be transformed, and if we don’t live out what we’re learning, I’m afraid we’ll look like those clanging symbols Paul talks.

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    32. Thank you for that right view. I wear glasses and remember the first time and the awe of seeing everything rightly. It’s a wonderful analogy.

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    33. This was a powerful blog for me. I especially needed to see that God’s word is meant to be lived, not just learned. Thanks Karen

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    34. Thank you for opening my eyes to understand and see what childlike humility means , I really enjoyed reading your blog Karen

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    35. “The path is narrow, but open to all” is a crucial message of the gospel as we interact with others in this antagonistic culture. Choosing to view others with the lens of the same grace we each received is a great place to start to share the love of Christ with others. Thank you so much for this article. Well written and clear!

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      • So true Tracey. It’s hard to extend grace , especially in our antagonistic culture, when we forget we were antagonistic toward God, and still recipients of God’s grace in Christ. It’s humbling…

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