“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”


Saturday (August 25): Scripture: 

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Meditation: Does your practice match your talk? Jesus scolds the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, for their showy practices. In a way they wanted to be good models of observant Jews. See how well we observe all the ritual rules and regulations of our religion! In their misguided zeal for religion they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for his word. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers. They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve.

Was Jesus against calling anyone rabbi or father? Or was he just directing this sharp rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees? Jesus seemed to be warning both his disciples and the religious leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others. The scriptures give ample warning about the danger of self-seeking pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbes 16:18)  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:24)

Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD) and bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin tongue, comments on this passage:

“No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, ‘Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?’ Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity. For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

Respect for God and his ways inclines us to Godly humility and simplicity of heart. The word disciple means one who listens in order to learn. Jesus shows us the way to the Father – the way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness. He showed us the way by lowering himself as a servant for our sake. He humbled himself, even to death on a cross, that we might be raised up and exalted at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Philippians 2:1-11). What is true Christ-like humility? Humility is true self-knowledge – regarding oneself as God sees each of us. The humble do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and in the power of his love and saving grace. True humility is a servant-like quality which enables us to place our life at the service of God and the service of our neighbor. Do you know the joy of Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and servanthood that I may walk in love as you have loved me. Fill me with the joy of servanthood that I may know the true freedom of  selfless love and generous service for my neighbor.”

Psalm 85:8-13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

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“An adulterous generation seeks for a sign”


Monday (July 23): Scripture:  

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet  Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of  the earth.  41 The men of Nin’eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the  wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Meditation: What would the Lord Jesus say about our generation? Jesus gave a rather stern warning to his generation when they demanded a sign from him. It was characteristic of the Jews that they demanded “signs” from God’s messengers to authenticate their claims. Jesus faulted them for one thing: spiritual adultery. The image of adultery was often used in the scriptures for describing apostasy or infidelity towards God. When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims, he says in so many words that he is God’s sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. The Ninevites recognized God’s warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented (Jonah 3:5). And the Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-9). Jonah was God’s sign and his message was the message of God for the people of Nineveh. Unfortunately the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God’s Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message. Simeon had prophesied at Jesus’ birth that he was “destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed” (Luke 2:34- 35). Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all –  his resurrection on the third day.

The Lord Jesus through the gift of his Holy Spirit offers us freedom from sin and ignorance and he gives us wisdom and understanding so that we may grow in knowledge of God and his ways. Do you thirst for God and for the wisdom which comes from above? James the Apostle says that the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity (James 3:17). A double-minded person cannot receive this kind of wisdom. If we wish to be wise in God’s ways, then we must humble ourselves before him, like attentive students who wish to learn, and submit our heart and mind to his will for our lives. The single of heart and mind desire one thing alone – God who is the source of all wisdom, goodness, truth, and knowledge. Do you wish to be wise and loving as God is wise and loving? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the wisdom which comes from above and to free your heart from all that would hinder God’s loving action in your life.

“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may grow in wisdom and knowledge of your love and truth. Free me from stubborn pride and wilfulness that I may wholly desire to do what is pleasing to you.”

Psalm 50: 5-9, 16-17, 21-23

5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! [Selah]
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you.  I am God, your God.
8 I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds.
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.  But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I rend, and there be none to deliver!
23 He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright  I will show the salvation of God!”