“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” – Philippians 2:3-4.
If humility is defined, in Paul’s terms, as “thinking of others as more important than yourself” then humility would appear to be a Christian virtue. Until Jesus Christ came, humility was considered a weakness and not a virtue. It’s not difficult to understand why humility would be frowned upon when pride rules in the hearts of the natural man. It goes completely against the “survival of the fittest” mentality, with the prize and the spoils going to those who are aggressive, assertive, and pursue their own interests, even if this means stepping over others to get ahead. Considering others as more important than ourselves would seem strange before Jesus.
But, “thinking of others as more important than ourself” is exactly what Christians are told to do in Scripture. We are asked to be humble because Christ was humble. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8).
So what does humility mean in real life? Consider this: Humility is living with the right understanding of who God is, who I am. There is a link between humility and seeing God clearly. Humility is recognizing that everything I have and need comes from God. It’s an attitude of heart that affects everything a person does and says. In Jesus’ words, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.’” (John 8:28). Jesus understood why He was sent. He loved His Father and came into this world to reveal Him. He recognized that everything in His life comes from His Father.
Jesus was God and deserved to stay in heaven. Yet out of His great love for us, He chose to come to earth as a human. Jesus even chose to obey God to the point of dying an embarrassing and painful death on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the perfect example of humility, and we are to follow His example. Now, can we follow His example perfectly? No. Only Jesus can be perfectly humble, but because of His humility, He offers us salvation and forgiveness for all the times we’re not perfect. While our imperfect humility can’t bring salvation to others, like Jesus’ perfect humility did, it can help other people want to know more about our God.
But it’s not easy to be humble, even if you really are. What is there about us that makes us want to receive credit? Why do we tend to compare ourselves to others? Why are we prone to find fault with others? In those times, in fact in all times, we need to remember that Jesus became nothing during His life on earth, and He gives us His example so that we may follow in His steps. As John the Baptist said, ”He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30)
- Read Philippians 2:3-4 . How do these verses describe humility? (not being selfish or trying to impress, thinking of others, taking an interest in others) Why is it hard for us not to think about ourselves first?
- What can we do to remember who God is and who we are?