John the Baptist once said of Jesus, “He must increase and I must decrease,” and forever after, religious Christians have murmured the same thing in holy tones, thinking that it was humility. Or we say it, “More of him, less of me.”
Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself. That’s religious garbage. That’s pride: “My opinion of myself is more important than your opinion of me.” True humility is being known as you really are. No pretense. Another way to say it is that true humility is agreeing with God, since God clearly knows you as you really are.
Frankly, the phrase is used not infrequently in the sense of, “Look at me. Aren’t I humble?” (Really, us decreasing wouldn’t even be part of our conversation if we were thinking of Him aright, because our focus wouldn’t be on ourselves.)
But we miss a couple more key points here.
First, most of the time, we seem to miss the detail that Jesus, the creator God, once had far less of you than he has now. In fact, he had none of you, and he didn’t like it. So he made you. And then [and *only* then] he said, “It is very good.”
So when we declare “He must increase and I must decrease,” we’re really saying, “God screwed up when he made me.” If that’s been your thinking, I invite you to repent, to choose a new way of thinking. All the evidence suggests that what God really wants is “More of him *and* more of you.” He’s made it pretty clear that he’s not doing this creation and redemption for his own health: it’s so he can have more of you (and me!).
What father, what parent, wanted their children to decrease so that they could increase? That isn’t actually a healthy model. Our Father is not trying to push us into obscurity so that he can have center stage all to himself.
Furthermore, John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets, and Jesus spoke of him that way (interestingly, in Matthew 11:11, since the number 11 speaks of transition). So John, speaking as the last Old Covenant prophet, declares that the Old Covenant must decrease, and specifically, Old Covenant prophets must decrease, and the Kingdom must increase. That’s a whole different statement than our holy tones expression of self-focused humility.
This is never a statement of humility, even if we mean it that way. More than anything, it’s an inadvertent confession that we don’t really understand the gigantic heart of the King of the Kingdom.
Suggestion: Let’s stop trying to avoid the good things that God has called us into. Let’s quit hiding from our true calling as sons & daughters, as heirs of the Kingdom.