Humility is not a concept often used or demonstrated these days. We live in a culture that is full of showboating, you know, that excessive and often times annoying behavior done after someone has “done something good” that is intended to bring attention to the person doing the showboating. The term “showboating” is derived from the theatrical performances produced on riverboats on the Mississippi River in the late 19th century. These riverboats became known as showboats and the verb “to showboat” comes from that origin.
Just turn on the television on Saturday or Sundays and watch any football game. You will not have to watch too long before you see a player make a good play and after the play is over that player “showboats.” A lineman tackles the quarterback for a loss and gets up and dances and pumps his fists while standing over the downed player. Or maybe a defensive back makes an interception and as he is running down the field he high steps the last ten yards on his way into the end zone. (Did you know that in football terminology an interception returned for a touchdown is called a “pick six.”)
Sometimes showboating becomes a craze. From 1988 to 1991 fullback Elbert “Ickey” Woods played for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. When he scored a touchdown he performed a celebration in the end zone that became famously known as the “Ickey Shuffle.” Woods would shuffle his feet to the right while holding the football out to the right, do the same moves to the left, then do three hops to the right, all before spiking the ball into the ground. This showboating led the NFL to create a rule against “Excessive Celebration” which is enforced as a penalty against that team. While Ickey Woods has not played professional football for close to 25 years, his famous end zone dance is still with us today. Earlier this year GEICO ran a commercial for their car insurance in which Ickey Woods did his famous shuffle. Click here to watch that commercial.
Jesus describes an incident of showboating in Luke 18:9-14. In this parable, two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector, went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not a sinner like the other people, especially that lowly tax collector. Maybe even this religious leader did his own version of the “Ickey Shuffle.” The tax collector, on the other hand, would not even look up toward heaven as he beat his breast and cried out, “God have mercy on me, a sinner (v.13).”
What Jesus said next caught everyone off guard. He said that the tax collector is the one made right before God, not the Pharisee. He concludes this parable by saying, “I tell you this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (v. 14).”
Celebrate your accomplishments in a way that brings honor and glory to God not in a way that says “look at me.” And as the former longtime University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal used to say, “When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”