Have you ever been truly embarrassed? By “truly” I mean having a flushed face and not knowing where to hide. I had such an experience. In my pre-teen years I was a newsboy, delivering newspapers on a busy route. The trick was to fold the papers in a certain way, so that when you threw them they would most likely land on the porch or the front steps. The wind had to be right and the flick of the wrist would do it. Almost like shooting baskets. The customers wanted the papers before dark. Alway before dark.
One cloudy day, I came upon a house with a large window behind the porch. There was a small child, with his face cradled by his hands, looking out. With this distraction and a sudden gust of wind, I threw the paper hoping to hit the porch. It didn’t. The paper hit the window and the window broke. I had two options. Face the music or finish the route before dark then come back.
Having finished the route, I came home and discovered that the owner of the broken window was there to greet me. He was there and my Mom wanted to know what was going on. I was truly embarrassed. My face was flushed and I found no place to hide. I should have chosen the first option.
In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14:7-14) Jesus talks about avoiding embarrassment. He is invited to dinner, and one of the things he notices is that many of the guests are heading for the places of honor at the table. This observation causes a comment. Something like, “What if somebody more important than you comes? Then the host will set you at one of the lowest places at the table.” No doubt a suggestion to avoid embarrassment.
What was Jesus tryin to say here? Most likely, thar his disciples must be “humble” and not “self-seeking.” What does that mean? The “humility” of Jesus meant that we, as disciples, should tell the TRUTH about ourselves including both the gifts and the limitations. And be able to tell them apart.
What if you unable to sing a note or play an instrument? Yet, you were a good listener so that people would come to you for a hearing. The former can be a limitation and the latter a gift. The task of every Christian is to carry on the ministry of Christ, which is, basically, justice, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. We use our gifts to convey that ministry. The limitations would most likely get in the way. The challenge is to be able to distinguish between the gifts and the limitations. Therein lies the effectiveness of our ministry.
Consequently, “humility” is knowing the truth about ourselves–the gifts as well as the limitations. Doing ministry with our gifts, and not the limitations, is one sure way to avoid embarassment.