The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33, NRSV)
When Obi-Wan Kenobi brings Luke Skywalker to the Jedi Master for training, Yoda does not want to train him. Luke has decided that the way of the Jedi is exciting and adventurous. He’s decided he knows what kind of training he needs. And he has decided that Yoda could not possibly be the one to offer him that training.
Yoda knows that Luke’s attitude is not in the right place for instruction. Luke is not ready. He needs some humility.
Humility is a hard thing to understand.
Humility is the opposite of being proud or boastful. I like how Ellen Davis, an Old Testament scholar, defines humility. “It means,” she writes, “accepting your talents as a gift from God, recognizing them as God’s gift to the world through you, and preparing yourself to use them accordingly.”
I wish I had come across this definition years ago. For the longest time, I understood humility more as being modest. As a result, I didn’t let my gifts from God shine as much, fearful that I would be boastful. It reached a point where those personality tests you take in seminary told me I lacked confidence in myself. I remember discussing with my mentor lack of confidence being confused with humility.
But Davis’ definition suggests differently. Be confident in our gifts from God. Discipline ourselves in our talents. Seek advice from sages. As Thomas Aquinas has said, “Humility is nothing other than the patient pursuit of your own excellence.”
- What does it mean for our attitude to be right for instruction?
- What do you think of Davis’ definition of humility?
Pray: Lord, help us to see the gifts you have given us and guide us in using them for your Kingdom. Let our talents shine through you. May we be confident in what you have given us. Amen.