Recently, my daughter wrote a note to her mother expressing her respect for her mother’s love, faithfulness, and godliness. She noted that she was not perfect but was yet an example.
For a number of years I have been curious how we are to be a “godly” witness to others . . . scars, spots, wrinkles, and all.
The Core of Godliness
I have become convinced after studying abuse in a scriptural context that humility is at the core of “godliness” in a broken world.
The funny thing is, humility comes from a recognition that you are not what you are supposed to be. Being “godly” and not being what you are supposed to be seems like a contradiction. We think of “godliness” as moral perfection.
We are like God.
However, despite what some theologies say, we will never be perfect in this life.
The Apostle Paul, whom we would look up to as maybe “chief” among the apostles, said he was rather chief of sinners.
Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief . . .
1 Timothy 1:15 (ASV)
What does that mean for us, who have not written most of the New Testament nor have thousands of salvation stories from our preaching to tell [as Paul probably had], that we could be any better at righteousness?
Certainly, Paul was morally perfect?
But he was not. And that is not the Lord’s standard for his broken world.
Dependence in Humility
His standard for us is dependence upon him in humility. Dependence because we are not God and humility because we are fallen creatures. The Gospel says Christ is our righteousness…not us.
The difference between toxic and normal leaders will often come down to humility. The difference between good and bad spouses will often come down to humility.
Proverbs 3 has some beautiful and wise words for us. The writer, King Solomon, said,
Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
Proverbs 3:25-26 (ESV)
Dependence. We need not fear. Because we trust in the Lord.
Faith [trust] in God is not a great work of His people. Faith is falling on our faces, recognizing our need for the Lord and His great work, not our own. The Lord is our confidence. Not ourselves.
Solomon goes on to say,
Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence.
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.
Proverbs 3:31-35 (ESV)
He says to stay away from “man of violence.” Another meaning of this word in Hebrew is “oppressor.” If you know this kind of person, you know what Solomon is saying when he speaks of him in verse 32 as “devious.”
Oppressive individuals are often liars. To prop themselves up and tear others down, they are manipulative and devious.
But who are the righteous he compares them to in the next verse?
You may be thinking, “Where do I fit? I can be pretty rotten? I look out for myself an awful lot of the time. I have pretty horrible thoughts about others at times.”
But notice the very next verse. The Lord “gives favor” to the “humble!“
Do you recognize that you are unrighteous? If so, I believe you are favored.
King Ahab’s Story
When Ahab, a really horrible King of Israel, was told he and his wife Jezebel would be severely judged by the Lord, he turned in humility to the Lord. God’s response?
And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days…
1 Kings 21:28-29 (ESV)
The Lord responded in kindness to a really bad guy who recognized his need for the Lord and humbled himself, admitting his unrighteousness. [In the end, King Ahab returned to his evil and faced God’s judgment, being killed in battle despite trying to deceive the enemy and place his partner king in danger.]
King Josiah’s Story
Josiah became king when he was eight years old. Unlike Ahab, the writer of 2nd Kings says Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.“
When the “book of the law” was found in the Temple, having been lost to use in Judah for many years, it was brought to King Josiah and read to him. As he heard the words of God’s law he evidently was cut deeply by his own unrighteousness, despite being a faithful follower of God.
2 Kings says,
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes…
2 Kings 22:11 (ESV)
Tearing of clothes means humility. It is placing yourself in a posture of repentance. It is an outward expression of being the least of the least, particularly for a king who wore the finest apparel.
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”
2 Kings 22:18-20 (ESV)
Do you want to be a testimony to the Creator of this world? Do you want to create a toxic workplace or one of peace and blessing. Do you want to have a home of chaos or home of peace?
You are sinful. I do not even know you, but I know this full well. I am in the same swamped boat with alligators up to my ears.
Do you recognize your sinfulness?