Humility and Exaltation


Humility and Exaltation
Matthew 23:5–12 “The greatest among you
shall be your servant. Whoever exalts
himself will be humbled, and whoever
humbles himself will be exalted” (vv.

With good reason, pride
is often considered the sin that births all other
evils. Adam and Eve refused
to submit humbly to the Lord’s command not to eat
the forbidden fruit. The
prouder we are, the harder it is to repent, because
we will not want others
to see us as more sinful than we have let on.

Following the Pharisees
made many men proud, for keeping their strict rules
could make men so
enamored with their own “holiness” that they wanted to
broadcast their piety.
In first-century Judaism, this meant enlarging
phylacteries and lengthening
fringes to show love for the Law (Matt. 23:5).
Orthodox Jews still use
phylacteries — small leather boxes containing
parchments on which are written
the text of Exodus 13:2–16 and Deuteronomy
6:4–9; 11:18. Based on Deuteronomy
6:8, phylacteries are worn on the left arm
and forehead during prayer, yet the verse points to a deeper reality than such
literalistic applications.
Fringes, tassels attached to a garment’s corners,
reminded men of God’s
commandments (Num. 15:37–41). Christ wore fringes (Luke
8:44), but He did not
use them to make an ostentatious display of His

contesting the pride many Pharisees take in their titles and honors,
cannot mean that titles are wholly inappropriate or that there are
distinctions between Christians (Matt. 23:6–10). After all, titles
“apostle” and “teacher” are later given to some believers (Gal. 1:1;
4:11). Matthew 23:6–10 only means that because Christians have Jesus as
final teacher, no believer is inherently superior to another. We should
call attention to our titles and achievements, nor should we
belittle them and so be guilty of false humility. Titles must
never be used to
demand unquestioned obedience to oneself. John Calvin writes
that Christ’s
“authority must remain entire, and that no mortal man ought to
claim the
smallest portion of it. Thus he is the only Pastor.” Nevertheless,
“admits many pastors under him, provided that he hold the pre-eminence
them all, and that by them he alone governs the Church.”

God demands humility from His people, not pride. Christ, not the Pharisees, is
our model, and His humble way is the only path to exaltation (vv.

Coram deo: Living before the face of
Matthew Henry comments, “It
is a gracious ambition to covet to be really more
holy than others, but it is
a proud ambition to covet to appear so. It is good
to excel in real piety,
but not to exceed in outward shows.” All of us are
probably concerned with
personal holiness, but are we equally concerned not to
show others just how
holy we are? Is your service to the church done for God’s
eyes or the eyes of
other people?

For further study:

Proverbs 16:18; 29:23

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