Have you ever considered the ridiculousness of the term “self-made”? The notion of a “self-made” man or woman is a good example of how the “wisdom” of the world is really foolishness. I wonder how we can even say the term “self-made” without laughing at its absurdity. After all, not one of us created ourselves. Not one of us manufactures our own oxygen, or creates our own water, or provides all we need for ourselves without involvement from outside ourselves.
We all began as babies. We all were knit together in our mothers’ wombs, even if we have no relationship with our birth mothers subsequent the cutting of the umbilical cord. We are creatures created by the Uncreated One. Even if we deny God, we are still not self-made. And as long as we cling to the silly notion that we are “captains of our own ship” or “self-made” we cannot enter into the joy and peace of God’s love, for the key to such living is the recognition that we are utterly and completely unable to redeem ourselves.
Our recognition that we are completely dependent on God’s grace and mercy is a sign of humility. And, unlike the term “self-made”, the word “humble” is a truly powerful word that is misused by our culture. Many times, we hear the two terms used together, describing how a “self-made” individual rose from “humble” beginnings. Humility is the ability to see yourself realistically—making an accurate assessment of your weaknesses and your strengths, your inner darkness as well as your inner light. We’ve turned the word “humble” into a descriptor of something lesser, poor or plain. We take a word that is a key characteristic of a disciple, a fruit of the Spirit, a trait exemplified by Jesus, and turned it into a barrier to success that must be overcome. We’ve twisted what is wisdom and turned it into foolishness. We’ve taken an essential quality of faithful discipleship, embodied in Jesus’ strength and confident reliance on God, and turned it into a liability. And because we avoid being humble, we remain blind to our own reliance on God and live in weakness. No wonder Paul said this to the Corinthians: Don’t fool yourself. If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish so that they can become wise. This world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. As it’s written, He catches the wise in their cleverness. (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)