S. Epiphany 5.20 “Humility And How I Achieved It” Is. 58:3-9; Matt 5:13-20
Remember how C.S. Lewis found letters from Screwtape, a senior devil? What follows is the first chapter of a book by one of Screwtape’s more famous “patients”… [a literary device!]
“It wasn’t easy, I assure you. It was a long, arduous process, achieving humility, that is. But now, that I’ve reached the top (or is it the bottom?) of that mountain, it’s an accomplishment I can look back on with something almost like pride. But wait; no, pride is bad, so not the word I’m looking for. Hmm, how shall I describe the feeling from the top (or bottom?) of humble mountain? Satisfaction? Yes, that’s it! I look back on my achievement with humble satisfaction, what Mick Jagger sought, yet never found. How did I do it, you ask? And well you should ask!—because it is, indeed, a rare virtue in our prideful world—you could stand to git you some, no doubt. So, buckle up, knuckleheads, because I’m going to tell you all about humility and how I achieved it. You’ll find it a very inspiring story, I’m sure!
Where to start? Oddly enough, let’s start at age 25 when I made my first million. My tech start-up had just hit. It was the early 80’s. I know—most people think wealth and humility mix like oil and water, but au contraire, my non-French speaking friend! It takes far vaster resources than the unwashed masses command to achieve true humility. Which is probably why it’s so rare in our low-achieving world dominated by takers not makers like me and my, me and my friends.
The first million spawned so many more millions as I devoted myself to patent protection, IP rights, and the crushing of all competition—the new American way. Billions now. It was only when I was freed from petty material concerns, and the need to worry about making a living that I could devote myself fully to self-realization.
I threw off the shackles of the bizarre Lutheran dogma into which my (adopted) parents catechized me at age 13 and immersed myself in Eastern religions, got me one of the top Maharishis. The true journey, as the Maharishi always says is inward. Know thyself! as the ancient Greek master well advised, and you will know everything worth knowing. Be centered on your own energies, always! And take care of yourself! Diet and exercise, regular fasting, was the first hurdle. I became a strict vegan, as the Maharishi himself taught me, and in learning to deny my base physical wants I became a true master of the inner life. I spend hours in meditation, self-contemplation. I can fast for days, proving my mastery over the body. I got rid of those gaudy Saville Row suits and silk ties and Italian loafers and adopted the uniform of the people—Levi’s jeans, t-shirts, black turtleneck in the cooler months…
Far be it from a humble man like me to boast, but I think I might have been the first one to introduce this uniform to the Silicon Valley types. No one can tell you from the lowliest factory worker—that’s the idea. The wealth, the privilege, is all concealed under a humble exterior. It’s like my [favorite] house: a modest and ecologically sustainable little bungalow on a few dozen acres in Malibu. Humble house on incredibly expensive real estate. But you see, I have to surf every day or I can’t make the inward journey. Having neighbor’s houses I can actually see just harshes my mellow…
Once I’d become Captain of my own Soul, I was freed to live for others [you can tell the others by their haunted expression]. And this is the secret of true humility. Once you’ve achieved it by meditation, fasting, discipline, you can now live entirely for others. I started foundations (they stop asking about your own wealth if you give a billion or so away). And I focused first on my own workers at my now rather large tech company (I’d tell you the name but you probably have one of my phones in your pocket, my laptop on your desk).
I found great joy in reforming my workers’ sad and undisciplined little lives. I got rid of those isolating cubicles, had an open office (for them, not me, of course) so there was no privacy, so we can all live for and with others, always. They didn’t appreciate it—they have not made the inward journey, or achieved humility. I also stopped paying the lowly drones excessively because the prideful just use material wealth for outward, physical ends. It impedes the inner journey the enlightened must make. We had some labor disputes. I had to squash a few attempts at unionizing because collectivism leads to socialism and that is not the Inward Way!
And that’s when that pestilential fellow—who only goes by the name Isaiah—started to harass me. I hate the mono-monikered—Sting, Madonna (get a last name, already!). Anyway, this “Isaiah” (probably a pseudonym for what’s really several subversive trolls) attacked me! He said all the humility I’d achieved was worse than the pride of the child who’s just scored the winning goal in the playground ball game!
Worser, by far: “Isaiah” suggested I was not only a villain—China’s best friend, an oligarch and an oppressor of American workers, shipping jobs overseas, destroying American manufacturing and high-wage blue collar jobs, but far worse, he suggested that I was some kind of pagan, a heathen, a stranger to the Kingdom of God! The nerve of the man! I said: “Have you not seen my fasting, my good works, my jeans, turtlenecks, my spirituality, my meditation and prayers? Have you not seen how humble I am for Christ’s sake?! A couple minor labor disputes with some ungrateful workers and you brand me a tyrant and a heathen??!!!”
And Isaiah shoots back: “Is this the fast that I choose, says the LORD [he thinks he actually speaks for God!] a day for a person to humble himself, to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free…?”
He rattled on like that a good while. I buried “Isaiah” under so many libel lawsuits that we won’t be hearing from him anymore…!
People ask me why I’m against Christianity. Well; it is anti-humility!—the sworn Enemy of the Inward Way! You only achieve humility by turning inward, by making something of yourself. But Jesus says turning inward shows our best works are filthy rags! He thinks only he can make something of us. He insists it is only by getting out of ourselves, dying to self, forgetting our self, dying with him, losing our lives for Christ’s sake, and looking ever, always, outward to him, as if this one Palestinian man is the true God, the only God, like that will get you into life, peace, joy, truth—his Kingdom!
I’m against Christianity because, in the end, it’s really about glory. Despite the spooky darkness of Golgotha’s cross, the eerily empty tomb, Jesus says this is the City set on a hill—that here is where the birds sing, here is where the sky is blue, here shines the Light of the World! Like losing yourself here is the way to find real life, peace, joy. It’s madness! Jesus calls us not to be humble but to be Stars, Salt of the earth, Light in a dark world—and what? You think, you really believe that you can get there by denying yourself, believing in Jesus, eating his body, drinking his blood, like this is the way to Peace surpassing understanding, guarding heart and mind in Christ Jesus?!!!”
And to that last part, Pastor says: