I googled “noble people of the 20th century” and basically found all of the above to be included: presidents, famous athletes, geniuses, and philanthropists. I was also redirected to “influential” people as the search engine (I guess) considered the two synonymous, though a quick look at some of the scoundrels mentioned on those pages made me quickly realize that the two words DID NOT mean the same thing at all.
Where this little journey took me, however, was to two realizations. First, it gave me a greater appreciation for God’s perfect order. In Philippians 4:8 the first phrase is “whatever things are true.” I am realizing (as I peek ahead to the other virtues) that unless one has a definitive truth on which to stand, the rest of the words will have no stability either. Definitions will fluctuate enough to cover all manner of meanings. No absolute truth, no absolute anything. And when everything is flexible, you end up with 12+ definitions and some real scoundrels in the mix.
Second, I realized that true nobility only comes from true humility. Those who have attempted to exalt themselves usually ended up in that “scoundrel” category, while those who selflessly focused on their calling, who were not deterred by nay-Sayers or critics, or who were not seeking public approval ended up being exalted by others as being noble. People such as the following:
Eric Liddell: Scottish runner turned missionary who gave up his chance at Olympic gold in his favorite event (110 meters) because he would not compromise his values and run on Sunday, the day the qualifying heats were scheduled.
Albert Einstein: Whose devotion to scientific discovery was unwavering.
Mother Teresa: She made every list and was number one on most. Need I say more.
Finally, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that this paradoxical reality is stated in the Bible. Below are just three.
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” I Peter 5:6 (emphasis mine)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10 (emphasis mine)
So how do we focus on whatever things are noble? By recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices a person has made for his fellow man. Servant-hood and humility=nobility.