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True Humility

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus censures people who take the seats of honour at a feast. Take the least honourable places, he tells them, and then the host can invite you to a more honourable place.

Jesus is rebuking the pride of those people who go for the honourable seats. But what is the solution to the problem of pride? If you race your friends to the least honourable seat because the reward for doing so is that you get one of the best seats, isn’t this pride too?

So what is true humility?

Well, think about pride.

There is a childish kind of pride, of course, where you brag about your accomplishments while everybody else tries to be polite enough not to roll their eyes while you are talking.

The worst and most sophisticated kind of pride is found in the Pharisee. And then there is also the grown-up version of that childish pride. A multi-millionaire who explains that he is a self-made man has this kind of pride. He has failed to notice all the gifts he has been given that have helped him get where he is. He thinks he himself is responsible for the good he has.

A more complicated kind of pride can be found in a person who knows that all his good comes from the grace of God. But he is sure that God has given such grace to him and not to his neighbours, because God knew that he, unlike his stupid worldly neighbours, would make good use of God’s gifts.

Finally, the worst and most sophisticated kind of pride is found in the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other men, especially not like that sinner, the publican. The Pharisee knew that every good in him was a gift from God. But he was glad that he had God’s gifts and that the publican didn’t. The Pharisee liked looking down on the publican.

Here is what humility is, then. It is recognizing that every good in yourself is a gift from God and is meant to be given back to the Lord by being shared with others.

You can’t get true humility by racing for the least honourable seat. If the least honourable seat is, in the Lord’s view, the best place to be seated, then true humility requires your sharing

it with others in gratitude to the Lord

who gave it.

Eleonore Stump


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