About twenty years ago, I moved down to Tennessee for a summer and while there I visited some friends. One of the girls had a boyfriend who looked very Nashville: frosted tips on his hair (if I remember rightly), probably an earring or two; he just looked the part of Nashville music hopeful. After church one Sunday, he drove me, who he had just met, and we went for lunch with the group. He paid for mine, which was really kind and nice and I thought, this is a pretty great guy.
Later that day I got the chance to talk to him one on one and I asked him what he did. He was kind of shy and just said he was in music, which in Nashville is like someone from Iowa saying their into corn (no offense, Iowa). Obviously, he’s a musician, but I decided to probe a bit more and asked him if he was in a band.
“Yeah,” he replied quietly.
“Oh, really?” I asked curiously, not really all that curious. “What’s the name of your band?” I was just being polite at this point.
He blushed a bit and answered, “Oh we’re called D.C. Talk.”
My jaw about hit the floor, because despite the fact I know basically nothing about music I did know that band; maybe one of the most famous Christian bands ever.
“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you all,” I stammered, then turned and slowly walked away.
That story has stuck with me over the years for one reason. Even though this guy was pretty famous and had accomplished some cool stuff, he was so humble and unpretentious. Most people would think he has lived a worthy life because he was in D.C. Talk. I think he has because of his humility and kindness to a nobody like me.
Everyone wants to live a worthy, important life. But what does that mean? How do we do it? Today, if I can offer a little cultural critique it seems to mean you need to change the world and if you’re not out starting the next great non-profit then basically you are wasting your life. I am not saying that’s a bad thing to do, but I am saying it is not the bigness of your life that makes it worthy. It is the smallness, the humility.
I think this is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 4 when he tells his readers to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Paul points to Christ–always a good move–and reminds us that he first descended to the “lower, earthly regions” before he later “ascended higher than all the heavens.” Humility is the path to greatness, to a worthy life. And no one modeled this better than Jesus Himself: a helpless babe, a poor wandering homeless man, a tireless advocate for the hurting and disenfranchised, a marginalized teacher, a hated healer, and finally humiliated, beaten and publicly executed. He took the path of humility at every step and I’d argue there has never been a more worthy life.
Want to do something big and important with your life, then live humbly, sacrificially and remember, as Paul writes that we are tied to Christ and “when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train.”
And by the way, the guy was this guy.