The Joy of Humility
I hope the past couple weeks you have had an opportunity to think about the freedom we have in Christ. A deeper understanding of what we have been given will help us live into the humble attitude that Paul talks about in these next verses.
Before you begin reading today, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer asking God to open your heart and mind. As we look at the virtue of humility, our pride can easily get in the way of us recognizing that we need this message as much as anyone else. I love what Martin Luther said about humility: “True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.” The minute we think we are humble is when we aren’t. At the end of the day, these verses will show us how Christ modeled the great emptying-out principle that infiltrated Paul’s life and teaching. This is the same principle that should permeate our minds and hearts so we can live with pure joy.
Chapter one ends with Paul encouraging believers to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. He inspires the church in Philippi to stand firm in one spirit and mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel (Phil 1:27). Paul starts chapter two with a bunch of “if there is any” statements which are designed to help the Philippians think about all they have been given through Christ; encouragement, love, fellowship, affection and compassion. I love how Paul does that! Isn’t it true that sometimes we need to be reminded of what we have before we can move on to understand what needs to change?
The Philippians were being persecuted for their faith and they were likely going through some internal conflicts, too. Paul states that his joy would be complete when he saw the church united, loving each other, and living intentionally with one common purpose. Unity like this is a mark of a mature Christian community. Bickering, fighting, being competitive and criticizing others is a sign of spiritual immaturity. It is no wonder that Paul wanted them to be united. Persecution would be somewhat easier to bear together and the bond between them would shake their opponents to the core (Phil 1:28). But even more than all that, Paul wanted them to be growing and maturing in their faith. An attitude of humility within each person is the ground in which a community with unity would grow. This attitude is what Jesus illustrated to us so perfectly.
Philippians 2:5-11 beautifully shows us the divinity, humanity and the humility of Christ. Christ modeled humility in the greatest way possible. Although He is God, He took the form of a bond-servant. He never used His power, status or divinity for his own benefit. He didn’t use His greatness to elevate Himself, but instead emptied himself for the sake of others.
Above all, Jesus is not selfish. He didn’t do anything for selfish gain or conceit and yet, of all the people who have walked this earth, Jesus could have demanded worship and praise. He could have crushed the people who sentenced Him to death. He could have called angels forth to remove Him from the cross but instead He endured the shame so we don’t have to. He took all our sin, all our punishment, all our shame and conquered it forever when he died on the cross, was buried and rose again. And He counted it a joy to do it (Hebrews 12:2). This is the example we are to live into!
I think one of the best ways to understand humility is to understand what it isn’t. It isn’t feeling incapable. It isn’t being insecure. It isn’t never accepting a compliment. It isn’t belittling yourself or thinking poorly of yourself. It isn’t thanking God for all your blessings so you can feel good about showing them off to everyone.
Humility is a right judgment of yourself. It is knowing who you are in Christ but also remembering where you came from. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is actually thinking of yourself less so you can think about God and others. Philippians 2:3-4 sums this up nicely, “regard others as more important than yourself and do not merely look out for your own interest but that of others.” Humility is thanking God for all you have but without trying to draw attention and glory to yourself.
Pride is the polar opposite of humility. A proud person is selfish and sees almost everything as reflecting onto themselves. They want things their own way and will not bend. They criticize and find fault in others. They are angry when things aren’t done their way, because to them, their way is the best way. They will fight and argue with others and are jealous of what others have. They look to be served, and if they do serve in any capacity, then they complain about the job, others, or the lack of attention and affirmation they are getting from it. They are always thinking of themselves more than others. They are focused on the self-image they are showing others. They want to be admired and esteemed.
Pride is a sign of spiritual immaturity because Jesus is not proud and spiritual maturity is measured by how much you look like Jesus.
True humility will radically change our communities. Humility is a gentleness that paves the way for kindness. When we honor others, we will naturally have concern for their needs and concerns. A wonderful thing happens when I consider you above me and you consider me above you — we see a community where people are honored, respected, encouraged and loved, a place where unity can truly happen.
How do you think an attitude of humility could change our communities? Work? Home? Church? Nation? World? How do you think our joy would increase with an attitude of humility?
Humility can be hard because it really is a giving up yourself — but I think that is the whole point. We are to die to ourselves which is that sinful nature where pride resides and called to live a new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-14). You can live out your salvation now by embracing your humble state and being obedient to Christ, or you can wait until he comes again. But at some point, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and a name above all names.
Joy is found in living anew in Christ because as we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, others will be inspired to do the same, and joy will abound when the communities we live in unite and honor each other above themselves.
I hope you will take a look at the homework this week where we will learn more about pride and humility by looking at a few fictional scenarios. I am praying it helps all of us understand the sin of pride and the joy of humility. We will have our next video on July 18th.