What is humility?
Don’t confuse it with humiliation, which is when someone else exerts their power to put you down. I remember that all too clearly from the playground – even 30 years later.
Humility can look a lot like humiliation, but the difference is that it is something you choose. It is letting go of power and putting others above yourself.
Do you see the difference?
I remember the whole team-choosing process on the playground. I don’t think I was every chosen last, but I got close a few times. That was humiliating, when the playground alpha dogs deemed you unworthy of their team or came up with something like, “Ha – your stuck with Stevie!” as little Stevie is chosen last.
I witnessed unmistakable humility one time when Blake was captain. He was a playground "alpha dog" – always in charge of picking teams (or being picked first), and he said, “I don’t want to be captain; let Stevie be captain in my place.” That was choosing to put another before himself - that was setting aside power; that was humility.
Humiliation is often caused by those looking out for #1 and doing so by making sure the best anybody else can be is #2.
Humility is stepping to the back of the line so others can be served first. It is looking out for the weak and thinking of others first.
Humiliation often comes, unfortunately, because of weakness.
Humility comes from strength.
It is a mistake to look at Jesus’ abuse, suffering, arrest, and shameful death and see humiliation. Paul tells us that “he humbled himself.” Jesus was strong, even at what seemed to be his weakest.
In today’s text, Paul challenges us to be like Jesus… that is, to live in humility. To do so, says Paul, will have extraordinary results, not only in our life, but in other’s lives, and in relation to God.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, although he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What was Jesus’ attitude? It was complete and perfect humility. Look at three different acts of humility.
1. Humility before God – he “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (v. 6)
Though Jesus was fully God, fully divine, he did not reach or cling to divinity as Adam was tempted to do, but “released” his place and right as God in order to do God’s will and serve God’s purpose.
2. Service to God – he “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (v. 7)
This humility translated into obedience and service to God, whereby Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a human being, a servant of God. Jesus demonstrated this humble obedience in a living parable to his disciples when he, their teacher, donned the towel and washed their feet.
3. Humility and compassion towards human beings – “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (v. 8)
That humility become obedience then became acted out obedience and compassion toward the human race, as Jesus suffered and died, fulfilling God’s saving plan for the world.
These acts of humility, obedience, service, and love are what we are to imitate. They are attitudes and they are actions. And while we do not act to save the world from sin, we do act to show God’s compassion and grace to our neighbors. We are to be “little Christs” to the world around us.