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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Lost virtue

God gives grace to the humble

Humility seems to have fallen on hard times. I am not certain when its decline began. A few generations ago, when psychology became a prevailing perspective on life, humility was criticized for contributing to low self-esteem. It is certainly not an attribute for survival in a competitive society.

Critics confuse humility — faith's response to being an unworthy recipient of God's grace in Christ — with being worthless. They overlook Jesus' words about the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind." And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself " (Matthew 22:37­39).

The daily struggle is between neighbor-love and a self-love marked either by pride or humility. Presbyterian pastor Frederick Buechner captures this tension: "Self-love or pride is a sin when, instead of leading you to share with others the self you love, it leads you to keep yourself in perpetual safe-deposit" (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, page 73; HarperSanFrancisco, 1993).


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