DAILY DEVOTION - JUNE 6
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:5–7
Uniforms are important for lots of jobs. They provide safety and security. They also tell us something about the job. For example, people who wait tables are supposed to wear non-slick, closed-toed shoes because they scurry from table to table and from the kitchen and back all through their shifts. Doctors wear sterile surgical garments to minimize the spreading of disease. Lifeguards wear swimsuits and keep a flotation device nearby in case someone in the water needs help. Now, it would be quite obvious if someone wore the wrong uniform to work—a doctor in a swimsuit would stick out! More importantly, that doctor would be ill-equipped to carry out the job.
For Christians, our job is to love and serve God and others. So what is our work uniform. Humility.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines humility as “Freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble (not proud or haughty).” This definition aligns with Peter’s words in our reading today, which he supports by quoting an Old Testament Scripture: “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor” (Proverbs 3:34). Humility is also completely consistent with Peter’s theme of Christians being willing to submit themselves to their leaders out of reverence for God.
Humility is the willingness to serve others and to put their needs before your own; it is the uniform Christians are to wear. “Clothe” (egkombōsasthein Greek) yourselves is “to fasten or gird on oneself.” A negkombōma was the white apron or towel that slaves wore, tied to the girdle of their vest, distinguishing them from the freemen. When Peter urges believers to “clothe yourselves...with humility toward one another,” he is asking us to live out submission and service to one another, constantly putting on our garments of humility and selflessness (cf. Philippians 2:3).
This call is a challenging, lifelong one for Christians. But humility is critical not only for our own Christ-likeness but also for our witness to others, as arrogance is corrosive to trust, care, and service. It’s also necessary in order to trust God, as any person who thinks that their plans are higher than God’s will struggle with trusting him. In the end, if they are not humble, they will be humbled.
Peter has learned these lessons firsthand. He didn’t think he was capable of denying Jesus, yet he did so three times. Talk about a lesson in humility!
Yet, if we back up some, there was a powerful moment in which Peter could have learned humility right before his denials of Jesus—one that Peter sadly missed. As the Jewish world was preparing for the Passover Festival, Jesus was preparing to be the sacrificial Lamb. But before going to Calvary, the Good Shepherd was going to feed his disciples one last time.
At the Last Supper, after the disciples entered, they likely cleansed their hands (a customary ritual) and then sat and began the meal. The host of the meal was supposed to provide a servant, usually the lowest one in the house, to wash the feet of all the guests—another customary ritual. However, since the meal had already begun, it became obvious that there was no servant to come. I imagine the disciples sitting in their seats squirming at the thought that one of them might have to do the washing. However, Jesus stood up, removed his outer garments, and put on a towel. He bent down near Peter and began to wash his disciple’s feet. It was only then that Peter objected to the Lord’s doing such lowly work of service. Jesus uses this as a teaching moment:
When [Jesus] had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13:12–17 (NIV)
This is absolutely astonishing—the Lord of the Universe became the lowly servant for his followers! And, since their Lord had become their servant, they were to become the servants of others. Jesus literally took on the position, posture, task, and even garments of a servant in order to demonstrate his reverent submission to the will of the Father as well as his profoundly deep love of those he came to save.
Yet, even after this gesture, and after Jesus gave them the wine and the bread, Luke 22:24–27 tells us that the disciples began arguing about who was going to be the greatest. Jesus replied, “[L]et the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves?... But I am among you as the one who serves.” His words must have reminded them of yet another lesson in which Jesus had taught them that the least would be the greatest (Matthew 23:11–12). However, like most lessons Jesus taught, this one did not immediately sink in.
Humility goes against our human nature because we want to be great, powerful, and prominent. Putting others before ourselves is not natural, and it is the opposite of arrogance. Arrogance is concerned with being the first and the best. Arrogance tells you that you know what’s best for yourself (and likely others too), and your will is the one to be executed.
But the Bible warns that pride comes before a fall; those who play the role of God in their own lives are likely to experience an immense amount of pain and suffering (Proverbs 16:18). God opposes pride, as it convinces us that we don’t need him.
Conversely, Peter tells us that humility is acknowledged dependence upon Jesus, as “casting our anxieties” literally means hoisting our burdens onto him who cares for us—transferring the load from one to the other. We don’t need to exalt ourselves (as if that were even possible), nor do we need to be consumed by our worries. No, instead we need to trust in God’s plan, his timing, his promises, and his goodness—all of which will never fail!
The end of this humility is Christ’s sharing his glory with us. But make no mistake, we will still and forevermore be servants of our King. Our glory does not mean becoming free from servitude. Our glory is the willingness of our hearts to delight in our position. This kind of life change calls for God to work in our hearts that which is only possible by his grace—a true humility that sees him for who he truly is and delights in his loving reign over us.