Series: The Outsiders
Title: The Humble
August 19, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
In a “Peanuts” cartoon, Linus tells Charlie Brown, “When I get big, I’m going to be a humble little country doctor. I’ll live in the city, see, and every morning I’ll get up, climb into my sports car, and zoom into the country! Then I’ll start healing people… I’ll heal people for miles around!” In the last frame, he exclaims, “I’ll be a world famous humble little country doctor!”
Charles Schultz, the cartoonist, was poking fun at how difficult it is for us to be humble. We may start out with the goal of being a humble little whatever, but before we know it, we’re into being a world-famous, humble little whatever!”
As our series on the outsider continues, we consider our ability to show humility, to be humble servants of Christ; to receive Christ’s forgiveness and move from outside to in. Or to be the catalyst to forgive others and thus inviting them in to a relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter who we are, what we have done, where we are in our walk with Christ, he meets us there with love and humility and welcomes us as part of the family.
What is humility anyway, what does it mean to be humble? “One of my favorite definitions of humility is “being open to the possibility that things are other than the way I think them to be.” In this sense, it is one of the absolute keys to change and an essential quality on the path to transformation.
“Yet for most people, myself included, we have a love/hate relationship with humility. We love the idea of being unpretentious and know that it’s “good for us,” but we hate the feeling of making mistakes, being wrong, or being exposed as something other than what we’ve pretended to be in the world.
“To better understand this conflict, let’s take a look at some of the different things people mean when they use the word humility. Consider humility as being modest. The kind of humility which is most often talked about as a virtue is actually modesty, from the Latin word modestus, meaning “restraint.” Modest people are moderate in their self-estimation and restrained in their expression, and in my experience are definitely easier to talk to at parties (if somewhat harder to find).
However, there is a catch — we tend to strive for “humility as modesty” most when we are feeling it least. Take for example the lyrics of the famous Mac Davis song It’s Hard to Be Humble:
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘cos I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
O Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.
“In this sense, humility as modesty is more a corrective measure designed to prevent the expression of excessive self-esteem than an actual transformative quality. And with everyone from our parents and teachers on down encouraging us to “be humbler,” it’s easy to take the extra step from limiting our expression to limiting our perception, leading to the second common use of the word, humility as shame.
“While the first dictionary definition of “humble” is “to cause to be unpretentious,” the secondary definition is “to cause to feel shame,” with such fun synonyms as degrade, demean, demolish, disgrace, humiliate, hurt, injure, offend, and put down.
“But true humility has nothing to do with shame and everything to do with humanity. A line I’d once heard from the philosopher Sydney Banks came to mind:
“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.
“In this sense, humility is humanity. It’s nothing to do with high or low self-esteem; it’s about recognizing the fact that we are one of six billion waves in the ocean of life, no more or less important than any other. Which can quickly lead us on to one of the most potent ways of thinking about humility as awe and gratitude.”
And here we turn to our scripture story this morning from Luke 7. It seems that one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner. The Pharisees were a Jewish sect, leaders in the temple who observed a very strict observance to the traditional and written law.  Generally they were not supportive of Jesus and it was in fact the Pharisees who plotted to have Jesus killed. They did not believe that Jesus was Messiah so the fact that this Pharisee had invited Jesus to have dinner with him, was significant. He was open to listening to Jesus, he was willing to find out for himself what the rumors about Jesus were all about.
It was known that Jesus was a Rabbi and some thought that he was a prophet. He was known to have healed people so this Pharisee, named Simon was curious. Jesus came into the home and sat down at the table. In those days this type of dinner would have followed “the Greco-Roman practice eating a formal dinner while reclining on couches with the head next to the table and the feet sticking out. That’s why this woman could have approached Jesus’ feet. Her actions are emotionally charged and bold. She enters a home where she is not welcome, disrupts the banquet, and publicly behaves with improper intimacy.
“The Pharisee is offended by what he sees. The woman is a sinner who doesn’t belong at the dinner. Jesus cannot be a prophet, for he obviously doesn’t know the nature of this woman. Jesus responds not with condemnation but with corrective teaching.” Jesus shares a parable to demonstrate his point about this woman. “41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
It is the greater sinner who feels more humility (awe and gratitude) for the savior. Jesus “turns to the woman whom Simon called a sinner and asks him to look at her again: “Do you see this woman?” Jesus ticks off a series of contrasts between the treatment he received from the woman as opposed to Simon. The narrator has withheld, until this climactic point, both Jesus’ reaction to the woman’s striking behavior and information about Simon’s reception of Jesus.
“Now Jesus makes three contrasts between the woman’s treatment of Jesus and Simon’s. We do not have evidence that foot bathing, kissing, and anointing the head were required for normal hospitality. But, in comparison with the woman’s actions, Simon’s welcome of Jesus looks decidedly cool.
“In verse 47 Jesus draws a conclusion that unites his observations about Simon and the woman with the preceding parable. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven, (and I can tell you this) because she has shown great love.” Simon is being shown the value of the woman’s experience, not just for her but for him. It is valuable not because Simon also has many sins (no such accusation is made), but because Simon can learn about the depth of God’s forgiveness and its powerful effect through the experience of the woman. If Simon can accept her, the woman’s experience can revitalize Simon’s understanding of God.
“We are not told how Simon responds to Jesus’ words. Jesus has carefully led him toward a judgment about the woman that is different from his initial one. The scene leaves Simon poised on the threshold of decision. He may finally accept Jesus’ teaching, or he may not. Simon is more than a negative stereotype. It is quite possible to view him as an open character who might change.
At the end of the scene Jesus turns to the woman, showing that he is not just concerned with Simon, for whom the woman can provide a lesson, but also with the woman herself. Jesus’ statement “your sins are forgiven” may be puzzling at this point, for the story assumes that the woman’s grateful love shows her previous experience of forgiveness. Nevertheless, reassurance of forgiveness may be important, since the woman must face people who share Simon’s negative attitude. Jesus also speaks about her faith,” “your faith has saved you; go in peace,” Jesus says.
The original “Lukan audience contained despised classes as well as people of good social standing, they would find food for thought in this passage. The passage insists that the “sinner’s” forgiveness and acceptance is important for the whole community. Both the socially marginal and the established are encouraged to value this experience as being central to the community’s purpose and as a source of religious vitality. The community is also being encouraged to remain open to those labeled “sinners.””
Truth be told if the church didn’t allow sinners, the place would be empty!
We are sinners, saved by grace, a forgiven people because of what Christ Jesus did for us on the cross. Just like the woman with the alabaster jar of oil, we must come to Jesus in humility, demonstrating both awe and gratitude for the life we life today as Christians. “We need both humility to ask for forgiveness, and we need grace to bestow forgiveness when it is asked of us. It seems as we grow older, our lives grow seemingly more complex. We hold onto grudges and doubts more easily, and we are less willing to sacrifice being right over being in right relationship.”
Humble thyself dear sisters and brothers, bow down before Christ with gratitude and awe. Amen.
 https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-19-lesson-humility-john-322-30. Accessed 8.18.18
 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-neill/humility-made-fun_b_6121934.html. Accessed 8.18.18
 https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pharisee?s=t Accessed 8.18.18
 Luke 7:41-43
 https://www.ministrymatters.com/reader/9781426750472/#chapter1b.html!h2-36 Accessed 8.17.18