Humility in Service

Matthew 23: 1-12
Is 1: 10. 16-20/ Ps 50: 8-9,16-17,21,23

The greatest among you must be your servant.
(Matthew 23:11)

If our faith seems to be crumbling,
Because our prayers are denied,
We just need a little humbling
To keep us from the sin of pride.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 1-12)


In today’s Gospel, Jesus taught His disciples to be humble by obeying the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, but not to imitate them, “for they do not practice what they preach.” By transforming the laws handed down to Moses into more than 600 rules and regulations, they had put heavy burdens on men’s shoulders. Their faith was superficial, only for show, putting importance on the external rather than what is in the heart. Instead of looking after the spiritual needs of the people, they maneuvered to get places of honor in banquets and assemblies, and sought important titles, like ‘rabbi’, ‘father’, or ‘teacher.’ Our Lord denounced them for their hypocrisy and extolled those who serve as the ones who are greatest of all.

In many religious organizations it has been noted that status can clash with service. There is a need to check ourselves that our ministry is not merely status seeking. We can become so engrossed in our responsibilities as group leader, unit leader or director, that without being fully aware of it, we assume a sense of self-importance in the community or brotherhood. Christ never suggested that leadership in His Church entails privilege. On the contrary, He had always emphasized carrying our cross to follow Him. “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt. 7:14)

Even in our personal quest for spiritual growth, we may sometimes stumble because of our sense of piety or righteousness. For instance, when we are asked to deliver a talk on a spiritual subject, we must at once guard against Satan’s praises that our ‘teaching authority’ puts us above our peers. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” We must remind ourselves that this privilege is a grace from God, not the product of our own talent, and this ministry is only possible because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. After all, none of us can be called ‘teacher,’ for we have but one Teacher, our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 23:10). We are all students, even if some of us may have the gift of teaching, leadership or wisdom.

May we never grow smug in the knowledge that we lead others in our ministry, Lord, because ‘pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Prov.16:18); help us to grow in Your example of humility in service to be worthy of You. Amen.

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