Let’s begin with a funny story. Once there was a lion who was proud of his supposed mastery of the animal kingdom. He proudly and confidently goes to the bear. "Who is the king of the jungle?" the lion asked. The bear trembling, replied, "Why, why, you are, of course, Mr. Lion." The lion then gave a mighty roar of approval. Next, he asked the tiger, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The tiger quickly replied, "Everyone knows that you are, oh great lion!" Once again, the lion roared with pride. Next on the list was the elephant. The lion boldly faced the elephant and addressed his question: "Who is the king of the jungle?" The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk, whirled him around the air and slammed him into a tree. Then he pounded him onto the ground several times, dunked him in water in a nearby lake, and finally threw him onto the shore. The lion – bruised and beaten – struggled to his feet. He looked at the elephant and said, " Hey! Just because you didn't know the answer is no reason for you to get so upset about it!" Although this is a funny story, we too have proudly strut around as arrogant kings and royalty; roaring and behaving as we know it all or have it all together.
In the Bible, Jesus speaks to the people of His time about humility. He says, “whoever is least and humbles himself will be exalted and the one who is exalted will be humbled.” What is Jesus really saying? He is speaking to the religious folks of His time saying that all of the things that they did to make themselves look important – widened their phylacteries, prayed publicly to be noticed, sit at places of honor, called by special titles – was not the answer. Is Jesus fighting the religious establishment of His time just because He wanted to be a rebel? Absolutely not! Jesus is challenging them. He is challenging them to be authentic and to lead from the heart. The law was the most important thing for the Jews during Jesus’ times. It was the most exalted thing. So, for them to do these rituals in a certain way and to do all of these visible, external things, in a faithful way, meant that they were law abiding Jews and that they were really honoring God with their lives. Jesus didn’t deny that. What Jesus was telling them was that humility is something that comes from within. It is an attitude. It is an act of the heart.