Some of my favorite verses in Scripture are Philippians 2:6-11. I love these verses because of the vivid description they give of Jesus…
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In just a few sentences, we see Jesus’ humility, His selfless love, His submission and obedience to God. The verse leading into this passage says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5) And in my Bible, this passage is titled “Imitating Christ’s Humility.”
Humility. What an elusive trait. Just mention the word and my eyes automatically turn inward to self and begin taking inventory of my successes and failings in this endeavor. We live in a world where self-preservation and self-gratification are placed above all else.
A simple definition of humble is “not proud or arrogant.” In our passage, the word “humbled” comes from the Greek tapeinoo, which signifies “to make low, bring low.” It can mean bringing to the ground, making level or reducing to a plain. At the root of tapeinoo, is tapeinos, which means “that which is low, and does not rise far from the ground.”
This definition of “humble” is not a popular one for us. We like to think of ourselves as not prideful or arrogant, but taking it a step further to this lowly state, this prostration, this reduction, that is not in our nature.
Yet we are called to imitate Jesus’ humility, to have an attitude that is like His. In 1 Peter 5:6, we are told, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand…” And again in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord.”
Yes, we are called to live humbly. As we look at this description of Jesus and the surrounding verses, we can learn more about humbleness and discover how to let humility shine in our lives:
In the first few verse of Philippians 2, we see that love and unity are the evidence of humility, and that humbleness is born out of relationship with Jesus. “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (vv. 1-2)
Since we are no longer separated from Christ, but are united with Him, since we know He loves us, we should live in this unity and love, letting it overflow into our relationships with others. We can have encouragement and comfort from our relationship with Christ, so we needn’t live in pride, fear or envy, which turn the eyes inward.
The chapter goes on: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (vv. 3-4)
How may times do the words “I” or “me” cross my mind? How often do I make decisions based off of myself - what I want and how I feel?
Humility is not self-degrading or self-despising. But humility does bring others, their needs and interests, to the forefront. It causes our focus to expand beyond ourselves. It causes our minds to consider others.
This humility comes as we imitate Jesus. In the verses that describe His humility, His submission and obedience to God is also shown. This first One we must consider, the first One we must look to, is the One we are to humble ourselves before and obey.
In my Bible, starting at verse 12, a new section title is given: Shining as Stars. While a new section begins, we still find continued teaching on humility: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (vv.12-13)
As we live in obedience to God, we must continue in this saving relationship. We should never think we’ve arrived or that we’re superior to others. We know that it is only God working in us that gives us the desire and ability to do His will. We are each on a journey of drawing closer to God, some in different stages than others, so instead of comparing or judging, let us keep our “fear and trembling” - our breathless awe, our joyful gratitude, our humble reverence for the One who is both the journey and the destination.
In verse 14, we are told, “Do everything without complaining or arguing…” All we do is to be done without complaint and without arguing. Even the things we don’t like to do. Even when we disagree with others. This isn’t saying if we disagree we can’t share our thoughts or work through the disagreement. But it should be done without argument. Without the stubbornness of wanting to change the other’s mind so you can be right. It should be done with ears and mind open, willing to hear the other out and understand where they’re coming from.
And when we do share our opinions and feelings, we should check our motives. Are we doing so to be right? to show how great we are? to hear our own voice? Or are we doing so to express that love and promote that unity talked about in the beginning verses? to help others understand us, as we strive to understand them, so we can be more like-minded and be one in spirit and purpose?
Following the command to do every without complaining or arguing is a promise: “… so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” (vv. 15-16)
We are promised that when, in humility, we do complain or argue, we may become pure and blameless, children of God without fault. For Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” And this humility shines in the darkness. Not because we are promoting self, but because we have died to self and are living in Christ.
For God exalted Christ, raising Him from death to life, and in Ephesians 2:6, we are told that “God raised us up with Christ…” And in 1 Peter 5:6 and James 4:10, those verse in which we are commanded to humble ourselves, we are promised, “God gives grace to the humble and He will lift you up.”
Humility allows God to work in us and through us. It enables us to see others without comparison or judgement. It let’s us share love and be unified. And through all this, humility shines with Light and Life.
The post Humility Shines first appeared on The Overflowing
Photo from Unsplash, edited by Jessica Faith
All Scriptures taken from the NIV, copyright 1984
Greek definitions and origins taken from The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, copyright 2010
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