• February 9th, 2014

Mop Bucket Attitude

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Study Guide

Mop Bucket Attitude:
Luke 14:7-11

Here is a story taken from a 6th grade reader that was published in 1926. You don’t see this kind of story in our texts any more.

Washington and the Corporal
While the Revolutionary War was going on, a small squad of soldiers, under the command of a corporal, were building a fort. As the men were straining every muscle in an attempt to place a very heavy log in position, the corporal, without lending a hand, kept shouting:”Heave away! All together! Heave Ho!”

A man, who looked as if he might be a well-to-do farmer, rode up, and asked the commander of the squad why he did not assist his men in that work. Turning toward the newcomer, he replied, with a grand air: “Sir, I am a corporal.”

I beg your pardon, Mr. Corporal; I was not aware of your rank,” said the man, taking off his hat and bowing. He then dismounted, and helped the soldiers place the heavy timbers, until sweat stood in drops on his forehead.
When the work had been finished, he turned to the man in command of the squad, and said: “Mr. Corporal, when you need help on another such job, send for your commander-in-chief, and I shall come and assist you a second time.”

The corporal was thunderstruck. It was Washington, the commander-in-chief of the army, who he had been ordering about for the last half hour.

Most people think like that corporal. They don’t want to humble themselves. They don’t want to get their hands dirty doing that kind of work. Like the guests at the wedding feast Jesus is describing in today’s text, they would rather emphasize their rank over others and be noticed for it. They want to push themselves as high as they can, even if it means stepping on others to do it.

But it’s not what Jesus is teaching here, or what his life showed.

Let’s quickly review our study of parables:

To this point we’ve looked at two parables where Jesus taught about God’s determination to see us, two concerning the nature of His kingdom, and last week began looking at four parables explaining the character God’s people should have.

This morning’s parable is about pride and humility and what our actions reveal about our attitudes towards ourselves and others. This picture might help us remember the lesson.

And I would like to focus on one verse – Luke 14:11

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled – and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 14:1,7-11 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. . . . Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, says our Lord. Self-exaltation. You know what that is, don’t you? It is pride. It is thinking that you are above others. Such self-exaltation, such pride, such considering oneself as high and mighty is a dangerous thing. For everyone, Jesus says, who exalts himself will be humbled.

The precise reason for Jesus’ statement was that he noticed that certain guests chose to sit at places of honor at the Pharisee’s house. The ancient world generally followed a strict pecking order at meals. The most important guests would sit on the host’s right hand; the second most important would sit on the left hand.

Jesus did not object to the seating custom. What he did object to was the fact that certain of the guests thought that they deserved to sit in the most honored seats, which revealed their prideful hearts and as the parable states, their pride led them to shame and embarrassment when their host redirected them to the lowest seat.

What Christian does not know that pride is a sinful and dangerous thing? Though they might not be able to give chapter and verse, many Christians can quote Proverbs 18:12, “Pride goes before a fall, but humility comes before honor.” Prideful eyes are one of seven abominations that God hates, according to Proverbs 6. And both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs 29:3-4, which says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the to humble.” Christians know well that pride is bad and humility is good.

But what is the pride that God condemns? Pride is thinking you are more important than others, better than others, or above others because of your name, your accomplishments, your gifts, your looks, your knowledge, or your wealth. You are not being prideful when you strive to be the best at what you do. You are not being prideful by merely recognizing that you are better at something than someone else (Paul recognized that he worked harder than all the other apostles; see 1 Co 15:9-10). You are being prideful, though, when you think that because of your superior gifts or accomplishments or name or knowledge, other people are beneath you, and, therefore, are not deserving of your attention, your time, or your respect.

Pride means having an overly inflated sense of your own importance. Scripture captures this idea when it says, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Co 8:1). So does the expression, “He’s sure full of himself.” Anyone can fall into such pride at anytime, which is why Scripture so often warns against it. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Rom 12:3), warns Paul. He reiterates the same thought in his letter to the Galatians: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal 6:3).

Meet Davin, who’s just a little full of himself…

Davin’s Valentine

When pride happens among Christians it is pretty ridiculous. Paul faced this especially in the Corinthian church. Some members of that church, who considered themselves more spiritual, or gifted, or knowledgeable, looked down on others who lacked these things. Paul highlighted the ridiculousness of this attitude when he wrote, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it” (1 Co 4:7). Their spiritual gifts and knowledge were pure gifts from God, not something that they had produced by their hard work. Therefore, how ridiculous it was to boast about such things!

There are many symptoms of a prideful heart. One is the way a prideful person reacts to criticism. No one likes criticism, of course. But the prideful person becomes deeply offended by criticism, and takes a “who are you to criticize me” attitude. Bragging is probably the best known symptom of a prideful heart, though it is just as often a symptom of an insecure heart.

There are other symptoms of pride. You know you are prideful when you become offended when people don’t give you the attention, respect, or honor you think you deserve. “Don’t they know who I am” is a prideful heart speaking. You also know you are prideful when you think that certain work is beneath your dignity and refuse to do it.

The actions arising from a humble heart are quite different.

Know who this guy is?

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s Restaurant, illustrates the value of humility in his book, WELL DONE: THE COMMON GUY’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY SUCCESS. He writes, “I got my MBA long before my G.E.D.” (Dave, of course, never graduated from high school.) He continues, “I even have a photograph of me in my MBA graduation outfit — a snazzy knee-length work apron. I guarantee you that I’m the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket. That wasn’t a gag. It was a case of leading by example. At Wendy’s, MBA does not mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude.”

You know, we could use more of that MBA attitude in the church! And you don’t necessarily have to wield a physical mop to show that you have it. There are plenty of other things that will get you your MBA.

There’s a widow or single mom over there with five little kids. She’s going nuts trying to be both mom and dad. Want to get your spiritual MBA? Go over there and help her with one or two of the kids. You older saints who already have your kids raised, I’m talking to you, too! I know the tendency is for you to say, “I raised mine. Let them raise theirs! I’m retired.” You may be retired from your job, but you’re not retired from the Lord’s work. Go spend some Saturdays with one of those kids. Be a mentor to him/her.

Or find someone else in the church and become their friend and mentor. That does not take a bible degree!

Or maybe there’s an elderly person who can’t get around anymore. He’s lonely and feeling overwhelmed. Want to get your MBA? Go over and spend the day with him. Talk with him, or just let him talk. Do that once or twice a month.

People sometimes come to Dan or one of the elders and say, “I want to do something in the church” and I admire that attitude. We need more of it. But is it necessary to come to us to find something to do? Look around you. What needs “mopping?” Figure it out and go do it. If you can’t find anything, you’re not looking low enough! Sometimes it looks like there is nothing to do in the church because we only want to do things that get recognized by others. And if we do that, are we any different than those jockeying for seats in Luke 14?

The best seat in the house is the lowest seat. Go get your spiritual MBA!

But let us not lose sight of the most important point. Pride is not merely one annoying little fault among many annoying little faults. God calls pride an abomination because it so easily separates us from him for eternity. It is a dangerous evil.

But you say, “What is so harmful about a little bragging.” But the heart of pride is not bragging. Pride leads to two great evils. One is self-righteousness. The other is idolatry.

When pride is mixed with religion, self-righteousness is the result. A person is self-righteous when they depend on themselves and their own spiritual performance to achieve righteousness (acceptance by God, innocence, perfection). They become self-sufficient, thinking that all they need is their own effort to be saved. Now in the secular sphere, self-sufficiency is a very good thing. It is sinful to become unnecessarily dependent on others. But in the spiritual realm, when speaking of our relationship with God, self-sufficiency is a disaster that leads one to hell. When it comes to God and his salvation, everything depends on what you depend. Pride leads one to depend on himself. But the Gospel teaches us to depend only on God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9) “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4).

In our text, Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” To exalt oneself means to pridefully think that God is going to be so impressed by the good works that you’ve done for him, that he will accept you on that basis. Such a foolish person will be “humbled,” that is, they will fall from grace and be lost forever. On the other hand, to humble oneself means to admit to God that you are a sinner who has nothing with which to impress him. It means to depend only on God’s mercy and grace and to believe that he accepts you on that basis. Such a person will be declared righteous and exalted to heaven when they die.

No part of Scripture better illustrates this than the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

• He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14).

• The Pharisee’s pride led him to self-righteousness. He believed that God’s acceptance of him depended on (a) that he was not as bad a sinner as others; (b) all the good works he had done such generous tithing. He exalted himself by his own achievements but he was not exalted by God. He actually thought that he deserved God’s favor on that basis of his performance.

The tax collector, on the other hand, humbled himself. In what did his humility consist? His humility consisted in the fact that he knew and confessed that he had nothing to boast about before God: He did nothing but confess his utter sinfulness and then depended on God’s mercy in faith. He knew that there was nothing in or about him by which he could make himself righteous. His righteousness was by God’s grace, a gift that depended only on God’s mercy.

That is what it means to humble oneself. True humility is not talking softly or being shy or unassertive. True humility is making yourself nothing through repentance and then receiving salvation as a gift through faith in Jesus. It is letting God be God and yourself his creation. True humility says “Not by my good works but by Jesus good works I am exalted to heaven. Not by my suffering but his. Not by my love but his. Not by my piety but his. Not by my sacrifice but his. Not by my zeal but his. It is faith in Jesus that exalts us to heaven.

Many people in the Bible were humble. Abraham (Gen 18:27). Moses (Num 12:3). Saul (1 Samuel 15:17). David (2 Samuel 7:18). The only perfectly humble person, though, was Jesus Christ. As it is written:

• Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. . . Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Phil 2:3,5-9).

How did Jesus humble himself? That though he was true God, he “emptied himself,” that is he refrained from showing or using his divine nature and normally kept it hidden. When he was being badly treated, how easy it would have been for him to reveal his deity and say, “Do you have any idea who you are talking to?” But he didn’t. Most importantly, though, he humbled himself by allowing himself to be crucified for us: “he humbled himself by obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” which was the most shameful execution imaginable. Christ’s humility was not only an example; Christ’s humility was our salvation.

True humility depends only on God’s mercy. God’s mercy is found only in Christ crucified. To humble oneself is to depend only on Christ’s humility. Throughout our lives faith says, “Father in heaven, accept me on the basis of Christ’s humility unto death on the cross. Look not on my lack of humility, but on his humility offered up on my behalf.”

This humbling of ourselves it is not a one time event. It must continue until we die. For the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature, are constantly inciting us to pride and self-exaltation. Therefore we must continue to strive to humble ourselves in repentance and faith.

We humble ourselves when we think little of our own gifts and highly of others. When we rejoice, rather than pout, when someone else is exalted and we are not. When we are content with laboring for Christ in obscurity, without and thanks or praise. When it is not about me and my reputation but Christ and his. Most importantly, we are humble when we give God all the credit and praise for anything good that we do (see 2 Co 3:5).

If you want to be used by God, then know that God does his greatest works through those who humble themselves. Through Isaiah God says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

The problem of course, is that none of us sufficiently humble ourselves or are as humble as we should be. That is why in his mercy, God himself humbles us. As our text says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”

Pride and self-exaltation severely limits God’s use of us. That is why God often humbles us through His Word (the Law that reveals our sin – Rom 3:20) or through adversity or failure.

Think of Paul’s example. God did so many mighty works through Paul, and allowed him to see lofty visions of heaven. Because of this, lurking in the background was the danger of pride. Paul writes, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me– to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Co 12:7; NAS). God allowed Satan to bring suffering into Paul’s life, a thorn in the flesh. Why? As punishment or rejection? No. As anger or judgment? No again. God allowed the thorn in the flesh to keep Paul from falling into self-exaltation and pride–to keep him humble. For self-exaltation can short-circuit our usefulness to God. Self-exaltation can lead to eternal death.

Paul didn’t like being humbled through suffering. He writes,

• Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Co 12:8-10).

It is because of love, not hatred, that God humbles us. It is for our good so that we do not fall into pride, so that we learn to always depend on his grace, and so that we might be even more useful to him. Here’s a story about a musician who learned this truth through adversity.

Jon Abel’s story

If you are in a rough place today because of a proud heart, or your own mistakes, or just circumstances of life, know that God not only allows us to suffer, he also allows us to fail and fall. Why? In order to humble us, so that we do not go the way of Satan, whose pride led to his eternal judgment. He allows us to experience shame and personal failure, so that we grow in our appreciation of God’s grace through Christ; so that we learn to glorify Jesus even more. And God sometimes allows us to fall and fail so that he can exalt us later, and do even more with us than before.

If you need the prayers of the congregation today, the attention of one of the pastors, or if your heart is urging you to confess your sins so that you may be healed, or you have come to a place where you want to be baptized into Christ, to be clothed with His humility, then please come forward during the song of invitation.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” All glory be to Jesus who truly humbled himself at the cross and then was exalted in the resurrection. All glory be to the Father that he freely exalts us because of his Son’s humility, when we humble ourselves through repentance and faith. Even this comes about only by his grace.