“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Solomon, 1011-932 BC
Proverbs 11:2 NIV
“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”
Confucius, 551-479 BC
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
St. Augustine, 354-430 AD
Humility easily passes the ancient principle test as a solid foundation for personal character and it makes sense that a humble spirit is an inoculation against our own abuse of power. It is also easier from this perspective to see that submission to legitimate authority is the only way to morally wield power over another. While that makes sense for the authority you have been given, what about the authority you are under? Wouldn’t humble submission to illegitimate authority be a disaster? How can you avoid that? How can you know the difference?
The first step is understanding that a column (remember the illustration) topped with “society” as the ultimate authority is incomplete. This system still leaves room for the fickle influence of culture, the rise of a tyrant, or any number of other influences that could jeopardize moral authority. The column that is limited to authority created by man is always going to be vulnerable. So how do you and I, the dwellers of the middle of the column, have confidence that we are submitting wisely and that our humility doesn’t set us up as fools? By recognizing that our column, every column, is topped by something higher than itself, each is under the original source of all authority.
One Nation Under God…
These are words that are in our Pledge of Allegiance, but what do they really mean? God is the author of authority and everything that comes from Him is reliably legitimate. If we mean what we say in the national pledge our insurance policy against backing the wrong leader is to make sure that we, and everyone above us in the column, is lined up under God. Unlike society, a boss on the job, or a political leader, God does not change. His authority is trustworthy. So what does lining up under God mean?
“It means giving God more weight in your life than anything else, so that if you face a decision where every inclination of your heart says no and yet to honor God you would have to say yes, you would say yes – because God carries more weight for you than every other inclination of your heart.”
Colin S. Smith
That is a big personal commitment, but being under God means having an unmoving standard of ultimate legitimate authority to measure everyone and everything else against, which in Smith’s words, “is the basis for our rejection of tyranny…(and) leaves no room for dictatorships.” Are you ready for that?