The Humility Vacuum

Vacuum cleaning marketers can teach us a lesson about pride and humility.

The #1 most powerful advertising image in the vacuum cleaner game is that of a vacuum cleaner holding up a bowling ball. The smaller the vacuum and the larger the ball the better the impact. You've almost certainly seen the tiny Oreck Super Compact vacuum hold up a 16 pound ball. But almost all the other brands have responded. This Merlin manages two bowling balls. You can watch this one lift 4 bowling balls. The Electrolux Intensity can pick up five bowling balls. 

The one-upsmanship of the vacuum market has ballooned so awesomely that you can even watch this Dyson pick up a car.

And while I, as a Christian who values what God values, would normally reject these egregious displays of pride in favor of a more humble, Christ-like approach, within the context of the suction-cleaning industry I have no choice but to wholeheartedly applaud the pride of Oreck, Dyson, and the like. 

And here's why:
Humility shouldn't exist in a vacuum. 

The most counter-intuitive aspect of humility is not simply that you should be humble even though you want to be prideful. That's difficult for us, yes, but what most of us truly fail to grasp is the point of or motivation for humility. 

Some say (even among church-people) that you should be humble because if you are, God promises to exalt you (see Luke 14:11). While this is a by-product of humility, it isn't the purpose or the motivation. This should be obvious because being humble in order to be glorified isn't very humble, is it? That reasoning doesn't work.

Some say you should be humble because you are, frankly, not as important as you think. It would be a lie to think of yourself as anything more than a worm or dirt compared to God - he's so powerful. While this is true, God is a lot greater than you could ever be and any pride you carry with you as you walk in the shadow of the omnipotent creator is a foolish lie you tell to make yourself feel better, it still doesn't motivate you to be humble. It motivates you to be humiliated, it motivates you to be hopeless. But not to be humble. 

You should want to be humble, you should be motivated to be humble, not because God is so great but because that great God became even more humiliated than you. In fact, he took your shame and humiliation from you (and everyone else's from them) and he carried it to a shameful death. In doing so, Christ cut through the confusing mess of prideful lies that we have built and showed us that humility is the key to making life work. His humility showed us that the humble way is actually the only way, that the prideful way is broken and foolish and leads you astray. The greatest proof of this is that Christ's humility worked: as a result of it, your shame and humiliation have been defeated and you have been given a new chance to live life a better way - the humble way, Christ's way.

And that humility shouldn't exist in a vacuum. It's should be widespread and cooperative.

God didn't ask Jesus to be humble by himself. Jesus humbled himself so there could be more humble people - such as you. And God doesn't ask you to be humble by yourself. He wants all of us to be humble, together, cooperatively. He wants a network of humble people, cooperating in humility for a greater good. It's through this network of humility that his plan succeeds and he is glorified. It's through this network of humility that we also succeed and are exalted, like Christ says we will be (as a by-product of humility). If we are all looking out for one another, if we are all considering one another more important than ourselves, we will start to see the world actually work. If we in Christ-motivated humility work to lift others up, we'll start to see the whole Church rise up, with God in the highest place.

Humility shouldn't exist in a vacuum, because that's not how humility works.

Of course, while we're on earth, we'll never see it work perfectly because the world is full of evil and selfishness. Sometimes your humility will be the only humility and you'll get taken advantage of. But that unfortunate truth does not mean we should be jaded or hopeless or rely on pride. Christians should be idealists, especially in this, because they know Christ, whose victory is the proof that the ideal is worth pursuing. 

The humble cooperation of a group of Christian people is the only way the Church as a whole will fulfill the great commission. 

The humble cooperation of a group of Christian people is the only way individual Christians can realize their potential and live redeemed lives.

The humble cooperation of a group of Christian people is the most powerful advertisement for Christ that can exist.

In fact, compared to the humble cooperation of a group of Christian people, the most successful (or even the most humble) person on earth is no better than the strongest vacuum ever invented - all they can do is sit by themselves and suck.