Bill received a promotion to the position of vice president of the company. The promotion went to his head, and for weeks on end he bragged to everyone he was now VP. His wife got tired of it and said, “Listen Bill, it’s not that big a deal. These days everyone’s a vice president. Why they even have a vice president of peas down at the supermarket!”
Deflated, Bob called the supermarket to find out if this was true. “Can I speak to the vice president of peas, please?” The voice on the other end asked back: “fresh or frozen?”
What do actress Andie MacDowell, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and comedian Jay Leno all have in common? They all once worked at McDonald’s. Despite the punch lines of dead-end jobs at fast-food restaurants, working at McDonald’s has been the launching point for some people’s successful careers.
McDonald’s employees learn a lot more than how to flip burgers and work the deep fryer, said Cody Teets, a 32-year McDonald’s veteran who wrote, Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers that Began at McDonald’s. Teets herself started working at McDonald’s when she was 16 and today is responsible for 800 McDonald’s restaurants as vice president and general manager of the company’s Rocky Mountain region. The book consists of interviews with forty-three other McDonald’s veterans and the lessons they learned while working at McDonald’s.
One of the five major lessons is: No task is beneath you. “In a well-run restaurant, every member of the crew has to take responsibility for his or her job, to pitch in without being asked when someone else needs help or a task needs doing, even if it’s scrubbing the toilets,” she said.
“McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was famous for dropping in on a restaurant, driving (up in) his Cadillac, dressed in his business suit and gold watch, and then asking for a mop so he could clean up some spilled mustard.”
She went on to describe how L.A. Dodgers’ second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said his experience on a McDonald’s crew taught him the value of teamwork. Hairston felt pressure not to slack off because the other crew members relied on him.
The lesson is no matter how basic the task, you should take pride in what you do. All honest work is noble.
1 Peter 5:5 says, “And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the Scripture says, ‘God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble.’”
How often we forget this. Too often we see ourselves as being in the wrong place, having the wrong position in life. We need to see where we are and where God is meeting us are exactly the same place.
The truth is too many people are not satisfied with what life has dealt them. We’re angry with those who didn’t do enough for us. We’re sad because we can’t get what we want. We aren’t trusting that good things are coming our way. This lack of deep satisfaction leads to many problems: Anger, isolation, the need to control others around us, and our environment.
I want to share with you a clip from the movie, Bruce Almighty.
It can be tough for us to see the light, and find some true peace and joy.
Our scripture this morning is a little section of Proverbs. Actually, it’s not a section. These four verses, these four proverbs go together in their own way, something that by and large doesn’t happen in Proverbs. Usually, each proverb stands on its own without relation to the one before or after it.
But these four have a theme: We become humble and lose our false pride when we find our place in life and a real sense of security.
The four proverbs start talking about the name of the Lord. This name is like a strong tower, a place of great safety, where we can run. Scripture tells us we find a sense of security when we turn to the Lord.
The next proverb contrasts people who find their safe place in the name of the Lord with those who believe they find it in their own “walled cities,” that is, in their own accomplishments, wealth, in their own lives. They believe they’re safe and in control because of what they have or accomplished.
But the third proverb tells us this is a bad recipe for living: “Before destruction (arrives), one’s heart is haughty.” Believing we’ve made our own little world safe from outside or inside problems leads to pride and false control, not real security and peace. The truth is nothing we make lasts forever.
The third proverb tells us the right path leads to the right result: “but humility goes before honor.” In other words, if we’re humble enough to turn to the Lord, to seek God for our safety and peace, we’ll receive honor and joy as well.
And I put the final proverb in along with the first three because it also speaks of the correct order of things, the right position. In this example, humble people hear first and then answer. We wait our turn. This shows how we’re not trying to control someone else but instead listening to what they have to say. Humility is not only being in the right place with God, it’s about keeping the right position with others.
This is tougher to do than we may imagine—and much more important.
I was counseling a man, a husband about his relationship to his wife. It had gotten very tense. They were stuck. One day, they got into a bad argument. Things were said—again. She threatened divorce. He had heard it enough and told her to go file. He got into his car and drove away.
They talked on the phone. She told him he was moving out that day. He said no. They fought more.
Then he stopped thinking about himself and his wife or his words to her and her words to him. Instead, he thought about their kids. He told me he actually saw his children at their kitchen table. He saw how happy they were. He of course thought about how hurt and devastated they would be if their parents got divorced.
In that moment, he realized the argument between them was hot air; it wasn’t reality; it wasn’t real. It was like a bad dream they had to wake up from. What he knew was going to really matter to him as soon as the argument was over were their children. That’s when he got humble. He stopped and said, “I will do whatever it takes to make this right.” The argument ceased, he told me. He went home. He had remembered his position, as someone who was to watch over and care for their children. He had returned to humility.
You see, the Lord can use us when we are in our right mind and our right place.
Now most pastors will say if you’re humble then you will find your position in life. But this begs the question of what it means to be humble. Is being humble the feeling of being humble, of not quite measuring up to others?
No, being humble, finding humility, is the result of accepting that the Lord is our strong tower, our safe place, that the Lord is God. This spiritual adjustment from me being the one who has to talk first, who is on his own, who has done what is most important to putting others who are first in first place and putting God ahead of all is in itself the great move to humility.
When we can honestly say, God is first, family is second, and I am third, we have become a person of humility.
The famous inventor Samuel Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for (hu)mankind, must reveal it to someone and he was pleased to reveal it to me.”
The truth is we don’t understand humility and pride very well. We often think that people who have too much pride and aren’t humble are people who like themselves too much. That’s actually not true. In fact, like just about everything with human nature, the opposite is true. Those who have to keep talking about themselves and put themselves up on a pedestal, feel the least comfortable about themselves and their value to others. They’re the ones most in need of proving their worth to themselves.
Do you know someone who always has the answer but isn’t usually right? It’s annoying enough to know someone who knows everything, but it’s possibly more annoying being with someone who thinks she or he knows everything but actually doesn’t.
They aren’t secure with themselves. They don’t really know if they’re valued. They’ve forgotten how much they mean to others, to the Lord. They’re trying too hard and wearing themselves out.
Instead, find a way to trust the Lord. Love yourself by giving the gift of God to your heart. Lift up others first, caring for them truly. Know who God is, and who you are, and that everything is alright.
In his prayer, Praise of God, St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “You are love, you are wisdom, you are humility.” Now while he wrote this of God, we can think of it as directed toward ourselves. If you were to love, and then you were to be wisdom, would you not then be humility?
Love others, even those who fail you. Love your life, even if it isn’t what you dreamed it would be. Love yourself, even though you have failed and will continue no doubt to do so. Be wise, even if others aren’t. Be wise, take care of yourself. This is how being humble becomes who we are.