What doth the Lord require of thee ?
To seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God. Micah 6.8
Micah thought that God required three things of us. Most of us can agree that the first two probably sum up just about everything we consider to be worthwhile. Most of us think that it sums up the life worth living, the life which everyone should strive for. But then Micah adds a third requirement, or at least passes on what God told him was a third requirement. Walk humbly.
If you look on the internet you will find about 5,000 theologians giving us the benefit of what they think “walking humbly” means. One fellow says that if you are already seeking justice and loving mercy ,then you are walking humbly as a result. So Micah’s last requirement would seem redundant. I don’t believe that, but then I have no doctorate of divinity. I don’t claim to know for sure what walking humbly (especially with God) is. I have some idea what Jesus thought it meant. Jesus was big on humble, although when it came down to passing out kudos in the Sermon on the Mount, he chose to give the big prize not to humbleness, but to the meek. Saying that they would inherit the earth. This lead to the ancient joke, probably started by one of the Apostles. that it is O.K. for the meek to inherit the earth, but it still leaves the question of whether they will remain meek after they inherit.
Jesus himself did not walk humbly, although perhaps he did ”with God”. With his fellow man, especially the dense and evil or the ones he had legitimate disagreements with , he could be quite caustic. He never gently told a Pharisee that the Pharisee “might be mistaken”. He was very direct, he used descriptions of those who displeased him that were hurtful, even if accurate. Whatever they were, they were not humble, nor meek for that matter.
I think that the consumer and wealth driven society we live in places the humble in an awkward position. To maintain humbleness in western society, you have to have a different definition of the successful life than most people do. All of us actually pay lip service to the different definition, but very few follow it. Most of us follow the prescription of Glen Campbell “There’s been a load of compromising, on the road to my horizon, but I want to be where the lights are shining on me.” It is the “lights shining on me” that we all strive for when all we really should be quietly struggling toward is the light itself. I suppose that that is one simple definition of humbleness.
I grew up in the last generation in the south where boys were raised to emulate Robert E. Lee, or at least the character Robert E. Lee was thought to have had. That character was humble. You always did your duty in a way which did not (at least intentionally) lead to direct credit or praise. You always put others before you, you opened the door for women, you called every man, no matter what his station in life “sir”. You did not speak until you were spoken to. You talked in a quiet, somewhat self-effacing, manner. The end of World War II and the advent of air conditioning changed the South forever. Folks from the North moved in by the bus loads, most of these folks were less humble than the natives. In their defense, most of them did not believe that African Americans should be degraded and segregated and helped to do something about it. Despite their humbleness, the original southerners were, for the most part not only not helpful in that regard, but were downright hurtful to the effort. So I am not claiming any moral superiority.
What I am claiming is that life here was gentler and sweeter in some ways (again, if you happened to be white). I miss the gentle people of my youth. At my first legal job, I once pulled back and let a female colleague from the North enter an elevator before me (as all of us were taught to do) and she looked shocked. Then said, “Oh yeah, I’m in Texas”. Well, even in Texas, that habit is fading fast. Humbleness is on life support here, and everywhere else. It is a bad thing. Unlike the minister I mentioned above, I don’t believe that Justice and Mercy promote humbleness. I think that it is just the opposite. It is humbleness that promotes the other two. Micah had the order wrong, but he was correct about the mix.