Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; (or Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43); 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
“The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.” – Samuel Butler
In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a negative and a positive teaching. The negative teaching is that we should avoid vanity, pride and arrogance. These are ignorant attitudes that exalt ourselves. With scathing and scornful lack of tact, typical of Jesus when he is on a roll, he uses the scribes and Pharisees as examples. The positive teaching is that we are advised to humble ourselves and be servants of each other. This is clearly good advice. To appreciate this all we have to do is look at its opposite. We all know arrogant people. They often give themselves away by a certain look on their faces and in their eyes. It is hard to hide an overstuffed ego. A view of the arrogant is the negative teaching. However, in our society arrogance is usually not the epidemic. We are often more plagued by low self-image. With unemployment and low employment rates high, with many broken relationships, with unfulfilled dreams, with unresolved guilt, the pandemic is low self-esteem and low self-worth. The look of dejection is on people’s faces. Both this malady and arrogance each diminishes wisdom in its own way. Arrogance is a lie and so is low self-esteem. Debilitated self-worth is not what Jesus meant by humbling ourselves. Humility is truth, finding who we authentically are. Jesus suggests that the map for this treasure hunt is in serving each other. Many, fortunately, have found this treasure. We can tell by the sparkle in their eyes, the look of understanding on their faces. Let us mingle with these people so that we also may catch the truth about ourselves and light up with wisdom.
Matthew 23:10 says that we are not to call ourselves teacher, instructor, or master, depending on the particular translation. The word that Matthew used is found nowhere else in the New Testament. It literally means guide or leader. Only by extension can this be understood as “teacher.” However translated we are dealing here with a string of hyperboles. It does not mean that we can’t be called father by our children, or teacher by our students. It is rather warning against over bloated egos.
Lord, soften my face.
Guide my spirit to true self,
bright with humble glow.