Of Knowledge, Humility and Pride
Proverbs 11:2; Mark 10:35-45
As we begin the school year, let us reflect on the related themes of knowledge and wisdom acquisition which is what we are here for, and which is the business of this university, in relation to the contrasting themes of Pride and Humility. The book of Proverbs has always been a very valuable tool for lessons on values education, for values clarification, for the acquisition and affirmation of the kind of character traits that would help bring about the kind of life that is considered pleasing to the Lord.
There is this two-line saying in Proverbs 11:2 which clearly gives us an idea of the kind of end result that yields from two different character traits- pride and humility. Pride will result to disgrace or humiliation while humility would result to wisdom. Here is affirmed the truth that the humble acknowledgment of one’s worth before our Creator, the Giver of all that we are would result to real wisdom.
Knowing who we really are as a mere creature as we stand before the Creator, and realizing how limited our capacities and abilities are, how temporary and passing our own existence on this earth is, and how we need to depend on a power much greater than us is the key to arriving at a level of wisdom more profound and lasting than any kind of knowledge you could acquire on this earth. Indeed, humility even among the wisest and most educated and most powerful has been acknowledged as the trait that would result to a really true wisdom.
The truly wise are the ones who remain humble before the giver and source of such gift and would never manifest any tinge of pride and arrogance before his or her own fellows right in the community. Pride and arrogance are usually very tempting to manifest in highly prestigious, top ranked institutions like Silliman, where you can claim to have received the best possible training under the hands of the most qualified people and among the schools that have one of the best track record in passing the government licensure exams. To possess a diploma from Silliman can be considered as a badge of honor but it could just as well become a source of a spirit of pride and arrogance.
Our text in the gospel of Mark could provide one concrete illustration of how pride and arrogance among the disciples can actually render them blind to the actual values and character traits Jesus had been teaching to them. Yes, Jesus had been teaching them about the need to serve, to acquire the spirit of servanthood, in serving the least of our brethren, how they need to humble themselves as they go out to preach about the kingdom of God they learned and acquired from their Lord.
On the contrary, the disciples, in this story, led by James and John, the sons of Zebedee, have developed that spirit of craving and hunger for power, position and authority. Perhaps they have long been experiencing the life of being so powerless in their society, quite marginalized and ignored by the powerful in their society. Now that they have found Jesus, they began to look at him as the long awaited Messiah who would finally liberate the powerless like them from the clutches of the powerful and oppressive Romans and Jewish authorities. At the same time, they thought, that now, they have the chance to have their own taste of power as they anticipate holding a position of authority when their master and rabbi, Jesus begins to assume his position as the powerful messiah who would now sit on his throne to rule over all others.
They have been driven and motivated by dreams and ambitions of power. And this had become their source of pride and authority. They have the same value system as that of the Gentiles, always craving for power, position and authority. In fact, they have become haughty enough to demand from Jesus a position of authority for each one of them, one on the right and one on the left.
It turns out however that this story is not about power and authority. It is more about discipleship and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.You see, this material in Mark 10:35-45 is part of a narrative that took place after Jesus predicted His death in vv. 32-34. It tells us of an occasion wherein as they journeyed to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His eventual suffering and death and His resurrection. Actually, this was the third time that Jesus predicted His death.
This passage actually deals with true greatness even as it is followed again bya prediction of Jesus’ suffering and death. What is indeed true greatness and what is involved in being great? Jesus had to give them a short lecture on what he means by being great. It is not to have power and authority and high positions like that of the Romans and Jewish officials and lord it over the people. It is rather to be a humble servant of the people. This also showshow spiritually undiscerning and blinded by pride and ambition the disciples were. Verse 45 is a key verse in Mark’s gospel. Jesus came to this world as a servant-indeed, not as a royalty, not as someone claiming a royal throne to rule and dominate. Rather, he came as the Servant-who would suffer and die for our redemption as Isaiah clearly predicted (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).The son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many. Thus, Jesus suffered and gave his life to release us from the bondage to sin and death.
As a Church-related community of learning, we have been given the opportunity to humbly discern our worth as God’s children and God’s image and representative here on earth. It is therefore our task to embody that humility in doing service for the rest of God’s people. If we truly believe and follow Christ, then we are to embody Christ’s own humility in living and in doing and most of all, in serving our people whom Jesus had always cared for. Amen
(Sermon delivered during the Midweek Service on June 20, 2018, Silliman University Church.)