In today’s Bible reading from Philippians 2, Paul talks about true humility.
I was going to title today’s devotional: “Perfect Humility and How I Attained It”. But I was afraid no one would read it because the title would be a complete lie and everyone would know it.
I’m reminded of the words to a song I played as a Country Music DJ many years ago: “O, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ’cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me. I must be one heck of a man. O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.”
When many people think of “humility” they may picture someone groveling in the dirt, crying, “Woe is me.” Or they may picture someone self-flagellating, attempting to make atonement for their sins.
Funny… I don’t see that picture in Scripture except for the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14. The parable describes humility, but it doesn’t prescribe that everyone should do exactly what the Tax Collector did.
Pride is to be avoided. But I think in many people’s minds, humility is a virtue, but few people actually see humility as worth pursuing. After all, if you ever attained perfect humility and told someone that you had, well… would it be prideful to say so?
Paul actually prescribes humility in the first part of Chapter 2. He says, “Be humble like Jesus. Have the same mindset that Jesus did.” And then he gives us a picture of perfect humility.
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5–8 (CSB)
If anyone who every walked on this planet had a right to be proud, it would be Jesus! He was the embodiment of perfection. However, Jesus didn’t exploit that truth. Instead, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of a humiliating death.
Just before he points to Jesus as our model, he tells the Philippians to be humble. He says, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3–4 (CSB)
Note that Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t look out for our own interests. Instead, he says, “Don’t look out for just your own interests, but include the interests of others as well.” That’s the key.
How different would the world be if we didn’t just look out for ourselves, but also looked out for everyone else, also? Instead, we are affected with a severe case of narcissism. If you don’t believe me, just look around. And then, look in the mirror.
Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself.
It’s thinking of yourself less.
We’re told we need to have a healthy self-esteem. People are applauded for their self-confidence and self-sufficiency. While these traits are to be admired, we must be on our guard against pride. Pride is so subtle. And the lines between self-confidence and self-sufficiency on one hand, and pride, on the other hand, are so easily blurred.
Why isn’t humility listed in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23? Could it be that humility is something that we must actually work on, instead of something that is (super)naturally produced as fruit as we grow in our walk with Christ?
I think Paul answers that question in Philippians 2:12-13: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling as God works in you. He isn’t telling his readers they can work for their/our salvation. He says them/us to work out your salvation. Work it out from the inside, knowing that God is working in you to will and to work according to His purposes. (Philippians 2:13)
Humility: I’m not there yet. And neither are you. Let’s work on it.
This devotional was originally published on June 15, 2019.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: