I learned to ski when I was fourteen years old. To the beginner snow skiing is a very awkward, humiliating experience involving much entanglement of arms, legs, skis and poles. It also entails a lot of time spent picking oneself back up off the snow.
My favourite ski instructor was our school outdoor education teacher – he seemed to always be happy to forgo his skiing time to help others learn despite fanatically loving to ski himself. Eventually I figured out the reason for this – he spent so much time skiing that he knew he was not ‘missing out’ by giving up his own time on the slopes to help bumbling beginners. Knowing there would be plenty of opportunities to ski himself in the future meant he could patiently let go of that pleasure today.
Jesus reminds us to act like this on earth:
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:4 ESV)
There is no need to fight and claw our way to ‘the top’ (of whatever mountain you are on) because we stand to inherit it all if we are humble ourselves.
Paul echoes this idea:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)
We stand to inherit more than we can imagine so do not need to elevate ourselves to grasp for anything in this world. This is a fine sentiment, but I forget and the world I live in works differently, encouraging me to be assertive, standing up for my rights. Ironically, to be humble I have to become aggressive: aggressively non-assertive.
Jesus made himself nothing and humbled himself. My flesh, my pride, Satan and the world strive to have me make much of myself – to somehow prove that I am worthwhile. In calling me to follow Him, Jesus is the source of all my value and now I am trying to actively choose against self-promotion and ‘getting ahead’.