How low can you go?

by Jacob Juncker

These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 31, 2016, as part of “The Message.”  The discussion was based upon a reading from Matthew 23:1-15.

Shemika Charles can get lower than any other person in the world  On September 16, 2010, she broken the Guinness World Record for limbo by passing under a bar just 8.5 in (21.59 cm) off the ground.[1]  Shemika Charles holds the world record for going low.

The limbo is a dance in which participants have to cross under a stick by bending backwards.  Every time a person successfully passes under it, the stick is lowered.  The last person to not fall or hit there butt to the ground is the limbo star.

In 1962, Chubby Checker released the song “Limbo Rock.”  The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

Dum, dum, dum, de-dum, de-dum.
Dum, dum, dum, de-dum, de-dum.

Every limbo boy and girl
all around the limbo world
gonna do the limbo rock
all around the limbo clock
jack be limbo, Jack be quick
Jack go under the limbo stick
All around the limbo clock
Hey, let’s do the limbo rock.

Limbo lower now.
Limbo lower now.
How low can you go?

In today’s reading Jesus challenges his disciples with that same question: ”how low can you go?”  By going low, Jesus tells his disciples, you will be lifted up.

What do you think that means?  What does it mean to make oneself low?



Deitrich Bonhoeffer, in the book Life Together, suggests that lowliness has everything to do with how we view sin.

To forego self-conceit and to associate with the lowly, means, in all soberness and without mincing the matter, to consider oneself the greatest of sinners… If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.  Brotherly love will find any number of extenuations for the sins of others; only for my sin is there no apology whatsoever.[2]

Lowliness suggests Bonhoeffer isn’t about our lack of boasting.  It’s about viewing ourselves as, in the words of Paul, the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

Sin is anything that keeps you or others from fully loving God and neighbor.  “Sin is the failure to love.”[3]  Lowliness then is a constant evaluation of the way our love fails and a constant striving to love more perfectly (see Matthew 5:48).  “When we look at ourselves, we should be looking for ways that our love can be improved upon.  When we look at other people, we should be looking for ways that they are lovely.”[4]  Those who make themselves low, see everyone as lovely, because no one has sinned as badly as they.

How low are you willing to go?



[1] “Limbo-Lowest (female),” <> Accessed July 30, 2016.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted in How Jesus Saves The World From Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity by Morgan Guyton (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 109.

[3] Morgan Guyton, How Jesus Saves The World From Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 108.

[4] Ibid.