What Is Humility: Bibilical Understanding
Humility in a Self-Centered World
Before we dive into the Bible and see what it says concerning humility, lets take a brief look at how the world perceives it. The world sees humility as worthless and as a sign of weakness. The world's ideological perception is exactly the opposite of humility. It seeks the exaltation of self, self-promotion, self-pride, self-love, and self-satisfaction. So, as believers, this is the world we are thrust into and commanded by God explicitly to live humble lives. Humble lives, exalting, promoting, and loving others and God over ourselves. How is this possible? We are constantly bombarded and surrounded by pride; but we are supposed to live humble?
What does God's Word Say?
Since we have just read that humility is twisted and basically non-existent in the world's eye, we must get our definition from the Bible. So, lets take a look at Philippians 2:3-8, and see what the Bible has to say regarding this idea of humility.
Philippians 2:3-8 states,
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
How to Exemplify Christlike Humility
Lets analyze this passage verse by verse to get a clear understanding of how we can live out humility in a self-centered world.
Before expositing the text, we will break it into two parts for clearer understanding. The first part will be verses 3-5 and be called "How Do We Do This?" and the second part will be verses 6-8 and be called "What Does This Look Like?"
How Do We Do This?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves
No matter what we do as believers, we are required to do it with others in mind. Whether it be ministry, or in the workplace, or in the family, or school. No matter what stage of life you find yourself in, we all have the same obligation to put others interests before our own. We are to consider others interests more significant, or more important than ours. Sounds simple, but the difficult task is actually carried out. We are prideful whether we want to admit it or not. we are always looking for ways to boost our egos up or to get farther up the ladder of success, if you will.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition. What in the world does this mean? According to the Webster's dictionary, ambition can be defined as a desire for rank, fame, or power. Putting it in the context of this passage, nothing we do in life should be for the purpose of puffing ourselves up. Rather, we should be puffing others up. Now, this is a hard concept for me, and I am sure for you as well. We are supposed to promoting others and exalting others? The verse says to count others more important. That should be goal, our obligation.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others
The passage explains the idea even further by telling the believer to look out for the interests of others. We are called to put others interests above our own. Their interests should be superior to our own interests. Are you beginning to see how difficult of a command this is to live out?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus
This idea becomes even more seemingly impossible, when the passage tells us to have the same mind that Christ Jesus has. We are called to think how the Lord thinks. Now if you are like me, you should be a little scared at this point. We, as imperfect sinners by nature, are supposed to have the same mind as the perfect Savior? That is the way it appears to be unless I am reading the verse wrong. What does this look like?
So, we have briefly looked at the concept of how we are to do this; now lets look at what it looks like.
What Does This Look Like?
If you think the last part was difficult to swallow, you may need a medic by your side as you chew on this next section of the passage. We will be looking at the utmost example of humility in the Bible, the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ.
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped
What in the world does this mean?
In the form of God? Did not count equality a thing to be grasped?
Paul, the author of Philippians seems to referring to the transferal or transition from His Christlike form to his human form, which we will look at shortly. He did not count His equality to be grasped most likely means that He did not consider Godlikeness something to take advantage of. In the human realm, this power or lordship would be coveted or taken advantage of.
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men
In his transition of form, Christ emptied Himself; He gave up His rights. Now just this alone, this idea of giving up His rights could be a whole another hub in itself, so we save that for some later point and time. For now we just look at the next part of this verse. He took upon himself the form of a servant. The one who was considered equal with God, with divine power, lowered himself down to the form of a slave or "doulos", literally a bondslave. The slave was not thought of too highly in the times of the Bibles. A slave, a person with no rights, advantages, or privileges. This is definitely a drawback reference to 3-4. Christ become a lowly servant, clearly putting others interests before his own and doing it out of selfless love as opposed to selfish ambition. Christ the Lord become a slave, bondservant to all. It becomes even more astounding as we read on.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross
And in this form of a servant, slave to all, Christ died to all. He gave up his very own life! Christ poured Himself out for the sake of others, a parallel to verse 4 about looking to ones interests other than your own. Christ, the perfect righteous man died a voluntary death that was should of been reserved for us wicked sinners. Is that not absolutely crazy to think about? And yet, we oftentimes struggle with humility in those ares we would call difficult. Have you had to die anytime recently?
We will most likely not have to die to show our humility. But is it not mind boggling to look at this example laid out for us. Not only did Christ become a servant to all die on the cross, this is our example, our reference point for humility. We are to have the same mind as in Christ Jesus. Is not humbling to know that Christ gave up his life, and we still have a hard time not being prideful in the small things?
This Picture Says it All
A Humbling Response
Lets go back to what we said in the beginning. The world's view of humility is worthless and vain. How different is the world's view and God's view. The world is all about seeking self-promotion and pride, whereas God sent His own son to die on the cross. What vastly different views on mankind!
So what should our response be to this passage? We ought to be falling on our knees and confessing our need for Christ to help us. It is so difficult to give up our pride and realize we need help, but that is the only way to lose our pride; to realize that we need Him. When we do this, we will be on the road to our journey of understanding Biblical Humility.
How do we live humble lives in a self-centered world? We have the same mind as in Christ Jesus.
Helpful Book on Humility
i was required to read C.J. Mahaney's book, "Humility: True Greatness" back in college. Let me say that I am definitely glad it was a requirement. It is a short easy to read and very relevant book regarding this topic of humility. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is eager to growing in the battle againstt pride and selfish ambition.
Francis Chan on Humility
The above video is the whole sermon Francis Chan preached on humility at the Desiring God conference in October of 2010. If you are not familiar with Francis Chan, he is an excellent and clear expositor of God's Word. If you ever get the time to this listen to this sermon, I think you will find it very helpful.