Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is one of the most dominating and beloved players in football. He is loved for his success on the field and his mild-mannered, jovial attitude off of it. In a league where divas abound, it’s refreshing to see someone who genuinely seems to be enjoying his life rather than trying to maximize every bit of it to earn the most money.
Granted, he’s got the money part taken care of after signing $100 million contract last September with $51.8 million in guaranteed money. But you get the sense that his new-found fortune is not going to change who he is. His well-earned persona as a man of the people was demonstrated when, after signing that deal, Watt googled “What do rich people buy?” And after recently meeting Jennifer Aniston, his unashamed celebrity crush, he tweeted a picture of the two with the caption “I’m not even going to pretend like I acted cool when this happened. #LifeMade.” He would later joke that their meeting “was a complete disaster” because he “shook her hand instead of hugging her” and then “left the room without proposing.”
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Watt is back in the news for something decidedly un-divalike. Marcella Burke, a law clerk for Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, wanted to find a fun way to tell her husband that she was pregnant. She reached out to the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt to see if they might be able to lend a hand. So before heading off to the ESPYs in Los Angeles this week, Watt took time to pose for a picture to inform Steve Burke that he was going to be a father. The picture was then tweeted out and has since gone viral. It’s simply one more example of why Watt is so widely respected and appreciated by football fans around the nation.
St. Bernard of Clairvoux once said “It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low, but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.” Few players in today’s NFL have garnered J.J. Watt’s level of praise. However, he hasn’t allowed the accolades that come with such a reputation to change who he is or the kind of player he strives to be.
We are called to act in much the same way. Paul instructed the Christians in Rome to “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position” (Romans 12:16). Essentially, don’t act like you’re better than those around you. However, such humility is often misunderstood to mean having a low opinion of oneself or to approach life with the belief that others are better than you. That is not biblical humility and is not the kind of self-image God wants to develop in his children.
Charles Spurgeon defined humility as “the proper estimate of oneself.” Scripture is clear that you are unique (Psalms 139:13-15), valuable (Luke 12:6-7), and deeply loved by our heavenly Father (Romans 5:8). However, God’s word is also clear that we are equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Those traits should all work together to comprise “the proper estimate.” As such, they should be central to forming our identities in Christ as well as the way we interact with others.
Christian humility is only possible when we live with the dual recognition that we are uniquely valuable to God yet loved the same as every person we meet. It should manifest in changed lives that exhibit a quiet confidence as well as a concern and respect for those around us.
J.J. Watt may be the greatest defensive player in the NFL today. However, Jesus said “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12). If your self-image is dependent upon the praise of others, it will always leave you empty and disappointed. But if you embrace your identity in Christ and the humility that will inevitably follow it, you will be exalted by the Lord and know the kind of fulfillment and peace that can only come from God. Does that sound like you today?