In our Mama Heart Like Jesus series we are studying how Jesus discipled His followers as a model for discipling our own children.
Last month we focused on Jesus’ approach to protecting His disciples from evil, teaching them to be in the world but not of the world, and we discussed protecting our kids from the lies of the enemy.
This month we are discussing how Jesus taught his disciples to be like Him in character. Last week we talked about teaching our kids obedience and respect, and now we will discuss humility and selflessness.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: …. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:1, 5 (ESV)
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (ESV)
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” —Matt. 11:29 (ESV)
As I have been searching the Scriptures to discover what character traits Jesus taught His disciples, I have noticed that one of the virtues He emphasized most frequently was humility. I wonder if this is because we humans have such a hard time being humble, or if humility is one of the foundational character traits to acquire in order to develop other virtues, such as a servant’s heart. In order for our kids to learn to serve others with the right attitude, they must first learn humility. Here are a few ways we see Jesus teaching this important virtue to His disciples.
1. Jesus Taught By Example
Most people would acknowledge that Jesus is one of the greatest examples in history of what true humility looks like. Think of it – the creator of the world, God of the universe, coming to us through such a humble birth, having no home or possessions of value, and living a life of complete service and sacrifice. Jesus’ example had to make a tremendous impact on His disciples as they observed how He spoke and interacted with others, and as a result, they learned what He valued.
Studying the character of Jesus is one of the best ways for our children to learn humility. It’s helpful to read through scripture and discuss with our kids how Jesus reacted and what He valued. Then discuss what your family can learn from Jesus. To go through an in depth study on the heart of Jesus for kids 4-7, check out A Heart Like Jesus A-Z and A Heart Like Jesus A-Z On the Go. You will be amazed at the impact this type of focus can make on your kids’ hearts at a young age!
Likewise, we can ask God, by His grace, to make us examples of humility for our children. Do we apologize to our kids when we are wrong? Do we take time to serve others more than ourselves? Do we make a point to associate with all sorts of people as Jesus did, not just people with whom we feel comfortable? When we lead by example, demonstrating a dependence on God (an act of humility in itself), our children will learn from us how to be humble as well.
2. Jesus Used Real-life Examples to Teach Humility and Selflessness.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)
Jesus taught what humility looks like by providing examples of what it does NOT look like. He often used the Pharisees as an example of what not to do. In Matthew 6, we see Jesus providing an example of showing off. While wearing their fancy robes, the rulers would often “show off” by their generous giving, lofty prayers, and pious fasting. Jesus pointed out this prideful behavior and explained that they would receive no reward in Heaven. Teaching our kids not to show off is a process. They will naturally want to show us things and desire others to give them praise and attention as young children, and that is okay to an extent. However, as they grow older and mature, we can teach them what it means to boast and help them to check their hearts as to their motives. As they continue to learn they will understand how their boasting can affect others. For example, we can praise them for doing well on a test but explain why we don’t share our grades with others. We don’t need to gain approval from others because our approval comes from Jesus. We also don’t want to make other friends feel bad if we score better than them on a test.
“An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” Luke 9:46-48 (ESV)
One day the disciples got into an argument about who would be the greatest. Sound familiar? Jesus asked a little child to stand next to them. The disciples thought prestige and honor came from their knowledge and abilities and of course, their status as disciples of Jesus. Jesus changed their thinking by bringing a child before them and explaining that He valued a lowly child just as much as a man of status. He went on to explain that whoever humbles himself actually is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Wow, that must have put their argument to a stop! God can give us wise examples to teach our children humility as well. When our kids are fighting over who is the fastest runner or the best baseball player or singer, we can remind them that what God sees as most important is not our abilities or status. He values a heart that is willing to put others first before themselves.
“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)
Here Jesus noticed a situation and used it as an example to teach his disciples and others humility. While this specific example doesn’t apply so much to our kids today, the concept of selfishness is still very relevant. When we observe our children always wanting to go first, manipulating games to win, and demanding their way, they are struggling with selfishness. We can explain to them that Jesus wants us to be humble, and that can look like putting others first and being happy for others when they win. This can be very difficult for some kids, but we can start small with them and work up to harder tasks. Use consequences if needed to help shape their character. Praise them when they choose to be selfless because they are being like Jesus.
Jesus used His own life and everyday situations to teach the disciples humility. Sounds like a great approach for us Mamas as well! We can help them learn from Jesus, be an example ourselves, and teach them what humility looks like by explaining what it doesn’t look like (showing off, boasting, and selfishness). Humility is something that doesn’t come naturally, even to us sometimes. When we depend on God and ask His Spirit to transform our lives and those of our children, He WILL be faithful to help us become more like Jesus. The Lord will continue to shape our character through our humble dependence on Him and give us and our children a heart to serve others like Jesus.