One of the more interesting persons from our nation’s history is Benjamin Franklin. Among other things, he was an author, inventor, scientist, politician, and diplomat. His list of accomplishments is a lengthy one to be sure.
From what I have read, Ben had also invented his own religion. He had read the Bible and found it to be of some value. But, if I recall correctly, he had little use for Jesus as a Savior and considered the miracles recorded in Scripture as merely myths. He believed in God and thought religion was useful for society but that was about as far as it went.
In his autobiography, he revealed that he chose to focus his efforts on leading a moral life. To accomplish this, he came up with a list of several virtues. Each month he would focus on a particular virtue and make efforts to perfect himself in this regard. When he failed to exhibit that virtue, he would check it off. His goal, over time was to get to the point where he was able to live a virtuous life without blame.
As Franklin writes, he showed his list of virtues to a good friend who was a Quaker. Among the virtues listed were temperance, frugality, justice, moderation, silence, and cleanliness. After looking over the list, the Quaker informed Mr. Franklin that he had missed an important virtue. The virtue that was omitted was humility. Franklin agreed and added it to his list and then sought to live his life in a more humble fashion.
I think that Mac Davis might have had someone like Benjamin Franklin in mind when he wrote the song, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” When we look around, it is not hard to find people who are short on humility. In fact, pride in one’s self and one’s accomplishments are often seen as a virtue.
Why does the Lord say “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”? The Scriptures make it clear that before God we have nothing to boast about. It says that we are all sinners (Rm 5:12), void of righteousness (Is 64:6), and deserve only God’s wrath and can nothing to save our selves or earn God’s favor. So of what can we boast? God made us. He gives us all we have? Our abilities come from him. We could accomplish nothing without his blessings. We have no reason to boast.
Only when the Lord has brought us to see our need for God’s help, to see our sins and confess them, to look to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, only then do we know what means to be truly humble in God’s eyes. When we understand that it doesn’t matter if we are a professional athlete, a member of Congress, an accomplished business person, as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, we are all the same before God. We are sinners who need a Savior.
When we see ourselves that way, as God sees us, there is no place for sinful pride. When we look at others, who they are and what they have done will not be important. What only matters is that they are someone whom the Lord loves, someone whose sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross, someone who is just like you and me.
When God looks at us, he doesn’t see the color of our skin, our place in the social ladder, male or female, rich or poor. He sees someone he loves. May God help us to see everyone in the same way. That’s the key to true humility.