A quick shoutout to the U.S. Marine Corps’ newest second lieutenant, whose commissioning many of us were privileged to attend Saturday. A good steady young man; he’ll make us proud. Semper Fi, lad … and good luck.
On another subject … I was perusing the ‘net recently and came across a story of the actress Jennifer Garner attending church services with her kids. That in itself was not terribly unusual; many celebrities do so. But what struck me was a picture of Jen happily serving fellow churchgoers from a coffee cart that she was pushing around; now THAT impressed me. Though a beautiful and much-accomplished actress (remember the “Alias” TV series? … and all the recent Capital One commercials), walks the red carpets at Hollywood events, and is likely fairly wealthy to boot, she still shows the humility to serve as a humble coffee cart waitress, setting a wonderful example for her daughters, and for her fellow churchgoers as well.
In our day of selfies, soliciting “likes”, and endless (and, at times, shameless) self-promotion, that was a quite refreshing and heartening story. Because it’s easy for us to lose sight of who we truly are and—worse—who everyone else is as well.
Strip all the trappings of our lives away—the house, the car(s), the status, the honors, etc.—and we find that we are very much like everyone else. It seems, however, that so much of our lives is devoted to elevating ourselves in the eyes of others, which can lead so easily to considering with disdain and disparaging what we can arrogantly begin to consider as “hoi-polloi” surrounding us. After all, “they’re just not my type of people” is a not infrequent comment—verbally, or by mere look and gesture.
It’s natural to want to advance both in life and society, but there’s no need to look down upon others to do so. In fact, do we not admire the important person who nonetheless treats with respect all around him. To treat others poorly is not so much a reflection of the other, but of oneself.
Wealth or education or other extraneous quality does not touch upon the truth of the quality of a person. After all, who of us has not known those who were of humble means, and yet had great goodness and exceptional virtue? And we Christians remember that, no matter the person, he/she is someone God loves, and someone for whom Christ gave Himself on the cross.
We of the Judeo-Christian faiths should recall the myriad Bible references of the goodness of the virtue of humility. A most beloved verse is from the prophet Micah: “[God] has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8), and, of course, Jesus’ own admonition: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-1)
The easy yoke … the light burden. It is much work to try to be the alpha dog all the time … always trying to maintain our position in the pack, so to speak, especially since the alpha is also the one always challenged. Such concern can eat us alive … always on watch for someone or something who might be seen as surpassing ourselves, and attempting to either promote ourselves or—worse—tear others down.
Oh, that nefarious vice of envy and insecurity. How many have given their lives to it … seemingly never to realize that there is always someone with more—whether it be wealth, beauty, status, power, or whatever. Even if one were the absolute pinnacle of one attribute, he/she would be lacking in others. Therefore, we can see how envy is one of the most pointless of vices. The ladder we try to climb has almost infinite rungs … there is always someone above you. So … why not rather simply do our best and be content? Certainly, we use the gifts God has given us for the betterment of family and society, but we need not be so ambitious that we sacrifice the better for the lesser—honesty for dishonesty, integrity for corruption, honor for dishonor … just so that we might (perceive to) elevate ourselves one more notch, especially at others’ expense.
And so … to leave you with a few of the most poignant of Jesus’ teachings: “Blessed are the poor in spirit [not grasping, not sniping], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Blessed are the meek [not the endless self-seeking or the disparaging], for they shall inherit the earth … Blessed are the merciful [tolerant of the faults and failings of others], for they shall obtain mercy … Blessed are the peacemakers [not the backbiters … the peace destroyers], for they shall be called sons of God … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-16) Learn from Jennifer’s example that those who seek TO serve are greater than those who seek to BE served.