POWERFUL AND HUMBLE?
Lord, teach me how to use my authority wisely.
Read LUKE 7:1–10
The Faith of the Centurion
7 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Humility is not to say, ‘I have not this gift,’ but it is to say, ‘I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory’” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834–1892).
There is a well-known saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1834–1902). The truth of this is reflected in many news headlines. However, the centurion in today’s Scripture demonstrates that power does not have to go to our heads. He commands a large number of soldiers, yet he is humble enough to value those upon whom many in his position would have trodden underfoot. As a powerful Gentile with authority over Jews, he could treat them disdainfully, but he respects their culture. He has personally underwritten their synagogue and remains sensitive to their beliefs: he asks Jesus not to come into his home because he understands that Jews are not supposed to enter Gentile houses. His attitude to his slave also shows humility. Rather than viewing his servant as mere property, he “was dear” to him (2, KJV). And, of course, the centurion also recognizes his unworthiness before Christ, feeling somewhat reluctant to approach him directly.
How does this Roman soldier stay so genuinely humble? He recognizes the source of his power: he knows he is “a man under authority” (8) and that while he can command others, his power to do so has been delegated to him from above: his soldiers obey him because he exercises authority on behalf of the emperor. Without this authorization, he is powerless. This centurion knows his place in the scheme of things and as a result serves his superiors well.
Sometimes we think being humble involves playing down our talents and saying that we are not capable of doing things, even when we are. The centurion, however, shows us that true humility lies in using our authority and gifts to our best abilities, while recognizing that these have been given to us from our ultimate superior—God.
While false humility and pride seem very different, both stem from not recognizing God as the source of our talents and influence. Which is the biggest temptation for you?
Lord, Your people understand that we can exercise legitimate authority over no one unless it has been granted by You.