If you’ll allow me, for just a moment, I’d like to brag about my humility.
It is one of my best attributes, after all.
There are some teaching moments in the holy scriptures that tell us to be a little more humble. For example, Matthew, Luke, and Nephi all recorded Jesus asking a very important question: “Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature?” (see New Testament | Matthew 6:27; New Testament | Luke 12:25; and Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 13:27).
In this world, can you think a single thought and instantly propel yourself to riches, popularity, or fame? A hint: If you are having any trouble deciding on the answer to this question, just ask any politician running for office how a strategy of “think it and become it” works out for them. They have to fight for respect and earn every bit of it. And the adoration of the voters remains fleeting and fickle.
In the context that Jesus asked the question, can you dream it and become more favorable in the eyes of God? That one should seem even further out of reach. God the Father is clearly in the superior position of our relationship. Any efforts to think ourselves to a more prominent position is in vain. Any effort to work to brown-nose (He can see through it) or “climb the ladder” of success to move toward heaven is also doomed for failure (just ask the people at the Tower of Babel).
Jesus pointed this out in a different parable at another occasion.
He asked the people to imagine for a moment that they were rich enough to have servants. For our modern audience, let’s imagine that you have a couple of maids, a butler, and a chauffeur. This would presume that you also have a home and vehicles which warrant such servants. You pay these individuals a fair price to fulfill their duties, and you expect results and loyalty from them. Is it likely then that you will say to your servant, “Hey, you’ve been working hard today. Why don’t you take a break and have some dinner? I’ll eat afterward.”
As the master, you probably would not. You call the shots, and they work for you! They need to understand their place always. So you’d order your dinner ready, and when you were full, you’d leave the table and let them have their portion. Isn’t that what serving is all about?!
Would you thank your servants for their hard work? Or is their labor “just part of the job”? Try as we might to believe the opposite, most masters probably would act as the one described in this story.
So, as the “servants” in this parable, how do we interact with our Heavenly Master? If we are trying to obey His commandments; and if we are providing compassionate service to our fellow men, are we expecting some sort of extra reward? Are we hoping for good marks on our scorecard so that we can earn our favor and position in heaven? No, we ought to look upon our good works and say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have only done that which was our duty to do” (see New Testament | Luke 17:7–10).
In another time and place, a King Benjamin explained it to his people this way:
“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another-…I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; …for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
“And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 2:21–25).
(Speaking of politicians, when have you ever heard a king or a ruler ask his people to look to and give credit and thanks to God? Wouldn’t it be refreshing? Maybe that is why King Benjamin’s Farewell Address is one of my favorite passages of the the Book of Mormon)
No, we can’t say aught of ourselves nor gain any ground by doing that which is our duty. On the other hand, I don’t think that God expects us to walk around in misery, with our head drooping and our arms dragging behind us, crying “Woe is me!” Our Father did provide a Savior for us, and the gift of His Holy Spirit is promised. They demonstrated the love of heaven in the most remarkable way, and they continue to bestow undeserved blessings, also known as amazing grace. With a knowledge of those kind of blessings and opportunities, we ought to hold our head up and rejoice! We should be excited to share our gifts with others, and do our best in daily walk and conversation.
In return for it all, they just expect that we do our best to keep the commandments. They’ll keep paying our weekly servant paychecks in blessings, and we’ll never get out of debt on our Heavenly account.
But that’s OK too. One day future, we can look forward and boldly approach the throne of Grace, and ask for our reward. All that “servanting” will have taught us the nature of God, and will have prepared us to be able to enjoy staying in God’s presence. Those who have failed in their “duties” will rather not endure that presence, and will not deign to ask for such a place in the Kingdom of heaven.
I hope that this helps explain the reason why I’m working so hard to remain so humble.