Have you ever wanted to first in line? I know some people get up really early on Black Friday to go shopping. They want to first in line so they can get the best deals. They will run and jump in line, argue and sometimes it leads to fights.
Humility is a character trait that many people equate with weakness; they wrongly equate humility with being a doormat or being passive and totally pliable. That idea of humility allows one person to be domineering or dictatorial, and the other person simply to be treated as an object. The Book of Philippians paints a far better picture of humility, and it points us to Jesus to see just how humility is to be carried out.
THE PASSAGES Philippians 2:1-8,13-15
Tradition holds that the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi around AD 61-62 while he was under house arrest in Rome awaiting his first trial before the emperor. Paul wrote to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him through their messenger Epaphroditus (eper-fer-ditus). Paul also wrote to inform the church of his circumstances and to explain why he was sending Epaphroditus back home early.
1 Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
The church in Philippi sent Epaphroditus (eper-fer-ditus) with money to help Paul and to minister to him as the church’s representative. Paul was in prison.
The traditional view is that he was in Rome awaiting his first trial before Caesar.
While Epaphroditus was in Rome, he became seriously ill. Word reached Philippi of his condition, and the church was concerned for him. Also, Epaphroditus wanted to return home. Paul wrote his Letter to the Philippians to thank the believers for their gift and to explain the reason he was sending Epaphroditus home early.
2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
2:2 you are in agreement If believers cannot live in unity, the transformative power of the gospel comes into question. As a result, the gospel message may lose credibility among unbelievers.
They were to have the same mind-set, outlook, or attitude. Such an approach involved their having the same values and purpose. They would be like-minded if they had the same love—God’s kind of love that Christ demonstrated, if they were of one accord—a spirit of close-knit harmony, and being of one mind—a permanent disposition that focused emotions and will toward one aim.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Unity requires selflessness on the believers’ part. They must do nothing out of strife or vainglory. Rather than being self-centered, believers need to be other-centered. They should not be in competition with one another or ego-driven. Rather, they must conduct themselves with lowliness of mind (humility).
Christians need a clear understanding of humility. First, we need to know that it is not weakness; groveling subservience; self-abasement or disparagement; a poor self-image; or a false denial of talents, skills, or accomplishments. Humility is a healthy, balanced view of ourselves—a recognition of our strengths and weaknesses. It is being comfortable enough with ourselves and strong enough to make a deliberate commitment to others’ welfare. It is self-knowledge and self-acceptance that refrains from judging others but looks for good in them. The attitude or virtue of humility enables us to esteem other better than ourselves, looking out for their needs and interests as much as we do our own.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Christian living must have a theological foundation. Philippians 2:5 reveals Paul’s concern for both. The apostle presented Christ as the model by whom the Philippian Christians were to pattern their lives. Jesus is the only true hope for Christians to live in humility and submission.
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
In verse 6, Paul emphasized Christ’s deity. From eternity, Christ existed as Deity. The phrase form of God does not mean Christ merely was like God; the term form has the idea of the expression of essential attributes and stresses the reality of Christ’s deity. In nature, essence, and being, He was/is God. Today, to understand what God is like, we need to look to Jesus. Even though Christ is Deity, He refused to use His deity selfishly. He could have retained all the prerogatives of His deity, but He chose not to do so. We should not be impressed with worldly status or position but should have the same humble attitude as Christ as we serve others. Jesus taught His disciples that greatness consists of being a servant. He said the only area in which His followers were to seek to be first was in serving others (see Mark 10:43-44).
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Rather than holding on tightly to the prerogatives of His deity, Christ “made himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). The Greek word used here means to waive one’s prerogatives or rights to something, to humble oneself or set aside a worthy reputation. Jesus chose to follow God’s will, to leave heaven, to lay aside the glory of God, and to take on our humanity. His emptying Himself is closely related to His choosing to become a servant. He fully retained His deity but chose to limit His glory.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Even though Christ was Deity in human flesh, “he humbled himself” (v. 8). Again, instead of trading on His deity, He chose to become obedient to the Father’s will. The Gospels emphasize that Christ consistently obeyed the Father. He told His disciples that His food was to “do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).
Instead of claiming an elevated status among His people, He chose the path of self-sacrifice. As God’s Son, Christ was consistently obedient to His Heavenly Father, even when His obedience resulted in His opponents’ putting Him to death. Moreover, in His obedience He submitted to and endured the most humiliating and painful form of execution devised at that time: death of the cross.
We are to live with an attitude of humility as we relate to others. With a healthy, balanced view of ourselves, we neither think too highly nor too little of ourselves. With that wholesome attitude, we can serve others effectively.
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
How do believers actually place the needs of others before their own without murmurings and disputings? Paul addressed the only way to truly live a submitted life in Christ. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Believers are to constantly work at living a life submitted to Jesus Christ. We can live such a life only because God Himself is at work in us. It is God who supplies the necessary empowerment of Christians to obedience.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
Paul wrote that believers are to do all things without murmurings and disputings. Evidently the Philippians were experiencing controversy in the church that was not being addressed in a healthy way. Here murmurings carries with it the connotation of “complaint” or “displeasure” that is often expressed by murmurings and gossip.
15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
At issue in verse 15 is the purpose for which Paul had been challenging the Philippians. The positive purpose is introduced by a word translated that. Paul wanted the believers to be blameless (without defect, beyond reproach or criticism) with regard to their lives toward one another as well as the world. He commanded that their behavior be harmless (innocent concerning evil; sincere in motives) in light of their submission to one another and Christ.
The character Paul spoke of here is quite striking when viewed against the spiritual backdrop of a crooked and perverse nation. The believers who embrace the example that Christ set will contrast themselves with this dark world.
What can we do today?
>Small steps. Park in the worst space in the church parking lot next Sunday. Extra credit if it’s raining. Come early and set up the room for your next small group meeting. Tell someone how much you appreciate his or her gifts or skills in a particular area.
> Medium steps. Share a story of a major failure from your past. Confess your need for the gospel. Volunteer in a homeless ministry and treat those people as you would treat governors and kings.
> Large steps. Offer a sincere apology to someone you’ve hurt. Share your desire to be forgiven. Meet someone’s need with a large sum of money … and do it anonymously.
Paul was showing us how to “shine as lights in the world.” The world is brimming over with whiners, haters, critics, and cynics. Be the breath of fresh air our culture is so desperately longing for. How? By being convinced that God is up to something great in your life. I’m not talking about having a blind optimism, but rather living in the reality of what God is doing. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
We need to Humbly place the needs of others before your own.
Conclude by thanking God for the grace He gives us so that we can yield to others. Praise Him and thank Him for humbling Himself through His work on earth for us, especially His death on the cross.