As we progress towards a holy life and strive towards Holiness as Christians, we often hear we are to be servants, lift others above ourselves and remain humble. When we look at these attributes, it is important to understand the reason behind them and where they are coming from. One of my favorite epistles in the Bible is the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In his letter, Paul is writing to them to thank them for the gift they had sent them and to strengthen them by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone. In true Apostle Paul fashion, he drops some great theological nuggets on the people of Philippi. One of those precious gems Paul teaches about in this text is humility, which is something we hear about, but how often do we practice it? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, humility is defined as, “freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble.” The same source defines “humble” as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. The famous theologian and author C.S Lewis defines humility as, “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about your self-less.” We often get the concept of humility messed up and think that it means we are weak, meek, or don’t have strength, but that is just not the case.
So, then what does the scripture say about humility? Paul tells the church in Philippi to “do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, but in humility to value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians, 2:3-4) Wow, this is a powerful statement of actions, decisions, and behaviors that we are called to do. The first thing I think we must discuss is, does this mean I can’t strive towards my own personal goals and aspirations? I would submit to you the answer is you absolutely can be the best you, you can be, set goals and go after them! With that said, however, Paul is trying to teach us that we should not do things out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, so we must check our motives. Selfish ambition is all about doing things just for me, myself and I, when there is no benefit to others and my only motivation is my own self-interests. Vain conceit, on the other hand, is supplementary to selfish ambition and is when I value my own self worth more than I value others, its when we put ourselves above others. What Paul is trying to teach us here is to be humble in everything we do and to put others before ourselves, does this sound familiar? Jesus was and is our example to live by and to emulate, and he was a servant leader who put others before himself through his life, death, and resurrection.
Let’s make sure we keep this in perspective, is this humbleness and valuing the interests of other going to be easy, no it takes work and deliberate intentionality to think of the needs and interests of others before ourselves. As we put others first and serve them unconditionally, we are striving to be more Christ-like which is the foundation and basis of “Holiness” and Christ-like perfection. After all, the Lord, said, “be perfect as I am perfect,” we may not attain perfection in this life, but we are called to strive towards it pressing on towards the goal.
So today how can you serve others and put them first? What can you do to help someone else reach their full potential or their individual goals? The challenge then is to reflect on your own motives and ambitions and see where you can be humbler, putting the needs of others ahead of your individual needs, wants, and desires.
God bless you!