As we turn the page to Ephesians chapter 3, I have read the first section many times—as a matter of fact, I have taught through this entire letter of Ephesians in the past…. But in reading just the first verse of chapter three, I am brought up short.
“For this reason, I, Paul” … am in prison . . . the preamble to his explanation of what God had entrusted to him.1
First of all, it is quite clear that Paul had a good grasp of his God-given purpose. How about you? How would you complete that sentence “For this reason, I Laura am called to _____ _____...”? After all, Paul told us in the previous chapter that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”2 Indeed, all of us have a unique, God-given purpose.
Second, Paul speaks of his willingness to give up his personal rights for the good of the gospel. Here‛s my question for you: WHY? Why would Paul give up his rights, about five years of his personal freedom in prison, for people he didn‛t even know? Oh, I understand that it was for the good of the gospel—that is to say, so that others could meet Jesus—I get that. Buuuuut...why? What was it within Paul that would move him to be more concerned about others than himself? Especially given his proud past as a Pharisaical, arrogant Jew.
Let‛s bring it down to where we live—why would I give up my right to do ‘thus and so‛ for someone else, who I might not even know? You can even picture with me a stranger giving up his seat on a crowded subway for a woman he does not know . . . why? Hmmm.
Personally, I know there is something at play that is far bigger, far greater than me....and second, as a follower of Jesus, I cannot miss the premium he put on humility. Remember that foot washing scene on the very night he would be arrested?3.
Not too much said of this character quality today, now is there? Instead, we see people demanding their rights before thinking of others, before thinking of a higher way.
Humility is at the heart of all true character change, so it is quite a compelling subject. What is humility? Humility is a modest view of myself. A Scriptural understanding of humility means esteeming others more highly than myself; it means seeing others as God esteems them, and most importantly, it is seeing myself as God sees me. Paul gave up his rights for the sake of others because they were highly esteemed in God‛s eyes. He humbled himself so that others could meet the Christ who had transformed his life.
Kinda‛ like this story:
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.
“How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.
“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.
“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.
“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins.
“I‛ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away.
The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies . . .
You see he couldn‛t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
H-u-m-i-l-i-t-y... Reminds me of this that Paul also wrote from prison:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”4
Humility thinks rightly of oneself and often chooses to forego her rights. That is a good word.
Oh God, what do you say?
"You Say" - the song, Lauren Daigle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI
Seek to be humble--be free of yourself.
1 – Ephesians 3.1-13: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+3.1-13&version=NIV
2 – Ephesians 2.10: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+2.10&version=NIV
4 – Philippians 2.3-4