One of the great hindrances to the Christian life, lived out before God and others is the failure to rightly esteem ourselves. While there is much today exhorting Christians to think more highly of themselves than they already do, the emphasis of Scripture is to see oneself as poor and wretched and needy. Winslow’s devotional for November 12 is helpful in this regard.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3
CULTIVATE above all spiritual conditions, most assiduously, prayerfully, earnestly, and fervently, poverty of spirit. Rest not short of it. This is the legitimate fruit and the only safe evidence of our union to Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts. Nothing can suffice for it. Splendid talent, versatile gifts, profound erudition, gorgeous eloquence, and even extensive usefulness, are wretched substitutes for poverty of spirit. They may dazzle the eye, and please the ear, delight the taste, and awake the applause of man, but, dissociated from humiliation of mind, God sees no glory in them. What says He? “To this man”-to him only, to him exclusively-“will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.” We may think highly of gifts, but let us learn their comparative value and true place from the words of our Lord, spoken in reference to John: “Verily I say unto you, Among them which are born of women, there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: “notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Behold the true position which Christ assigns to distinction of office, of place, and of gifts-subordinate to lowliness of spirit. This is their proper rank; and he who elevates them above profound self-abasement, deep lowliness of spirit, sins against God, impeaches His wisdom, and denies the truth of His word. But how shall we adequately describe this blessed state? How draw the portrait of the man that is “poor, and of a contrite spirit”? Look at him as he appears in his own apprehension and judgment-“the chief of sinners”-“less than the least of all saints”-“though I be nothing.” Prostrate, where others exalt him; condemning, where others approve him; censuring, where others applaud him; humbling himself, where others have put upon him the greatest honor. Confessing in secret, and in the dust before God, the flaws, the imperfections, and the sins of those things which have dazzled the eyes, and awoke to trembling ecstasy the souls of the multitude. Look at him in the place he assumes among others-taking the low position; in honor preferring others; washing the disciples’ feet; willing to serve, rather than be served; rejoicing in the distinction, the promotion, the gifts, the usefulness, and the honor put upon his fellow-saints; and ready himself to go up higher at his Master’s bidding. Look at him under the hand of God-meek, patient, resigned, humbled, drinking the cup, blessing the hand that has smitten, justifying the wisdom, the love, and the gentleness which mark the discipline, and eager to learn the holy lessons it is sent to teach. Look at him before the cross-reposing all his gifts, attainments, and honors at its foot, and glorying only in the exhibition it presents of a holy God pardoning sin by the death of His Son, and as the hallowed instrument by which he becomes crucified to the world, and the world to him.