middot decisiveness besorah sober judgment of self

sober judgment of self

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-giftsHumility and timidity are not the same. Thankfully, it is more-or-less common knowledge now that humility is not about thinking poorly of oneself. Humility is often described in terms of awareness of one’s short-comings, and willingness to learn and grow from the influence and wisdom of others. In terms of a life worthy of the Kingdom, Rav Shaul gives an astonishing exhortation on humility in his letter to the Romans:

Through the grace given me I say to all among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to. Be of sober judgment according to the faith God gave each of you. For as in one body we have many parts, and all parts do not perform in the same way, so we who are many are one in the Mashiah, and individually parts of each other. We have gifts that differ according to the grace granted to us. If it is prophecy, base it on faith. If it is serving, then serve. Or if teaching, teach. If one is the comforter, comfort. The contributor should be generous, the leader capable, the mercy cheerful. (Romans 12:3-8, Restored New Testament, Barnstone)

Verse three is fairly typical: don’t make yourself out to be better than you are, accept what you do have, etc. Verses four and following take a unique turn. Instead of enumerating all the different reasons why we may be lowly people, Rav Shaul takes us to the core reason for humility: we need one another. Each of us has to focus on the gifts that are uniquely our own so that we can each be members of the body in Mashiach! True humility lets me realize that I may never be a great administrator, but I could be a great teacher. Therefore, I ought not to criticize the current administrators, but be focused as a teacher.

We are all “parts of each other.” This means that each of our unique gifts is necessary for another member to learn from and utilize. This is not the kind of humility that demands squashing our insights and talents. It is a humility that demands vibrant and passionate living of the gifts we have, put in focus for what they are, seeking guidance from others who have much to teach us, and working together to be an example of Yeshua’s Kingdom in olam hazeh.

Humility requires simultaneous motion in two seemingly opposite directions:

  1. Learning from others with awareness that there is always more to learn.
  2. Clarifying, sharpening and growing our unique gifts

Rav Shaul teaches that these are not opposites; rather they are both necessary lifestyles for the Body of Mashiach to function properly and powerfully. May our season of humility open up pathways for each of us to live this out to the fullest.

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