Do you know people who are always prepared for every emergency? They always carry their tools with them.
I have known doctors and dentists who always carry their medical bags along with them, no matter where they go, or at least they have it fairly close at hand. I know carpenters who always have their toolboxes available. Probably though the most prepared person ever for almost any emergency that could ever happen was my own mother. When we were young, my mother used to carry with her a huge pocketbook (it would never have fit in any pocket I ever saw)!
She had almost anything and everything she would ever need in it, whether it be a Kleenex for those spit shine cleanings on the way to church on Sunday mornings, an extra comb to make sure my hair was combed – and I had short hair — or a handful of breath mints to make sure I did not wander into anything with bad breath, or even a small screwdriver for glasses repairs and the like. She seemed to always be prepared.
When I think of my mother’s purse, I am often reminded of an old silent movie starring Buster Keaton, called “The RailRodder”, in which he had an apparently bottomless box on a railroad car that helped him to cross the nation of Canada. That box, like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, contained anything and everything he would need for that long voyage across that vast nation, from tableware and fine China for his meals to a wash bucket and clothesline for doing his laundry.
The question that comes to my mind when I think of these all-sufficient sources of everything we need is what is my mother’s purse, spiritually speaking? Where do I find every resource for my life that I need to cope with whatever life throws at me?
I am immediately drawn to a couple of statements by the Apostle Paul when he told a small church in the community of Philippi in ancient Greece that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The fact that he refers to doing “all things” was of particular interest to me, in that this is the promise for the ubiquitous and all-sufficient “purse.” In Christ I can do all things. In Christ there is nothing that is impossible for me. In Christ, He will provide all I need to accomplish what He calls me to do in this life. Christ Himself is that “purse.” Sounds like a great promise to claim, doesn’t it?
But that promise does not come without a challenge. Paul has set the stage for that promise with these words: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and in the verses that follow he explains what attitude that is by demonstrating how Jesus exhibited that attitude – the attitude of humility. He even tells us to act with humility towards one another right before he talks about the attitude of Jesus (see verses 3 and 4).
To act with humility goes against every grain in our bodies. We are told from our earliest memories to look out for No. 1 and to “toot our own horn.” We are told that no one will watch out for us if you don’t watch out for ourselves. We are trained to believe that there is nothing wrong with “selfish ambition.”
Selfish ambition is insisting on your way; vain conceit is doing so because you believe yourself to be more important than everyone else. Selfish ambition wants to be prominent; vain conceit believes itself more deserving than anyone else. Selfish ambition makes others yield to what it says; vain conceit assumes its thoughts, desires and happiness matter more than anyone else’s. Selfish ambition and vain conceit cause dissension, creates conflict, and leads to splits or departures.
Humility is just the opposite. It leads to harmony. Humility says, “It doesn’t have to be my way, because I can see that others would benefit from your way.” Humility says, “Things don’t necessarily have to please me, because I can see that it’s meeting the needs of others.” Humility says, “The music is not what I’d prefer; the board decision kind of goes against what I’d like; the refreshments are not handled the way I’d do it; but that can be OK, because what I want is not the deciding factor; what’s good for others is.”
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s simply thinking of yourself less. Humility says, “My voice may be better, but you need to sing this solo in order to develop your gifts.” Humility says, “I probably lead a meeting better, but the people are more likely to accept a decision if they hear it coming from you.” Humility says, “I think I just got the raw end of a deal, but that’s OK, because what happens to me is not the main thing; keeping harmony in the church is more important.”
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s simply thinking of yourself less. When there’s that kind of humility in the people, each one considering others more important, more deserving than themselves, each one looking more to the interests and needs of others, you have everything you will ever need.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]