Humility in Service

Matthew 23: 1-12
Ruth 2:1-3,8-11;4:13-17/ Psa 128

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

If hope and confidence are crumbling,
When all our prayers seem denied,
Take heart, it’s just a little humbling
To keep us from the sin of pride.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus told His disciples to obey the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, but not to do what they did, “for they do not practice what they preach.” By transforming the Ten Commandments 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 manuevered 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 greatest of all. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt. 23: 1-12)

Reflection

It has been noted that in many religious organizations, 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 service director, that without being fully aware of it, a sense of self-importance in the community or brotherhood can set in. 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 development, we may stumble because of our sense of piety or righteousness, especially when we start comparing ourselves to others. 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’ deserves respect from our peers. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” As I struggle daily to find the messages behind the daily Gospel readings, and then meditate to write down these reflections, I remind myself that this privilege is a grace from God, not the product of my 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, knowledge 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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