Psalm 138

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, Adonai, for they have heard the words You spoke. (138:4)

No person is too powerful or too important to be above cultivating the character trait of humility. Religious leaders, business leaders, politicians, media figures, sports figures, and celebrities can all benefit from learning what it means to be humble. One of the most important lessons that a religious life should teach its followers is that no matter how powerful or famous one might be, ultimate power resides with the Blessed Holy One.

Donniel Hartman argues in “Putting God Second” that religion itself contains the potential to sow the seeds of arrogance. He calls it “God Intoxication” and “God Manipulation.” God-infused people who believe that they know God’s will and are personally charged with carrying it out can be dangerous. Certain that they know God’s desire, they act with no regard for others’ spiritual paths.

Our verse suggests that the result of hearing (or reading) the words of God should first and foremost direct a person to praise God. To acknowledge God is to cultivate a posture of humility. Only within humility can a person take wise action.

In fact, the very act of hearing God’s words takes humility. More often than not, we hear what we want to hear because our ego interferes with the pathway between the ear and the brain. In order to hear what is actually being said we need to focus on the text or the person speaking and set aside our instinctual response. When we truly hear God’s words, we hear words not only directed towards ourselves, but also towards others as well. And when we put others’ needs alongside our own, we have begun to understand what it means that no matter how powerful, one is always less powerful than God.

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