Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.

art by Malory Fiso

There was once a scholar who went to a Zen master to be taught.

The Zen master happily agreed. But each time he tried to share his knowledge, the scholar would interrupt him with his own opinion.

Knowing he wasn’t getting through, the Zen master asked the scholar if he would like some tea.

He started to pour, and when the cup was full he continued to pour. The tea was soon overflowing out of the cup. 

When the scholar asked why the master had done this, the Zen master replied, “Like this cup, your heart is full of your own thoughts and opinions. To taste my cup of tea, you have to empty the old cup first!”

This story struck close to home. How many times is my heart full of my own thoughts, opinions, and will? How many times does my own will get in the way of my relationship with the Master teacher?

As CS Lewis wrote, “Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

Not an easy thing to do.

Count the “I”s in Isaiah 14:12-14: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of morning […] for thou hast said in thine heart ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also join the mount of the congregation. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell.”

Satan was brought from the height of pride to the depths of Hell because of his focus. As John Milton had Satan say in Paradise Lost, “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

We must make room for God in our cup.

We must be willing to admit that maybe our way isn’t the only way, or even the right way.

We must be willing to say, as Christ did, “thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2)

As we make room in our cup for God’s will and glory, we will find it no longer can overflow.

An increased capacity will always result as we fill our hearts and life with His Glory and light, aligning our will and glory with His.


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