When I was pledging a fraternity in college, humility was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, for many self-centered reasons, my goal was to prove my worth, climb the social ranks, and become “the man” and brother everyone wanted to be. The problem was, the more I succeeded, the more empty, the more of a jerk I became. However, I was not aware of or excited about any alternative at the time.
In this week’s passage, Paul (from prison) urges Philippian believers to live lives marked by humility and service to others. Not unlike my experience in the fraternity, doing so would require the courage to live counter-culturally in a Roman colony where many boasted that Caesar, not Jesus, was Lord.
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Questions to Consider
What do you notice about Paul’s “if - then” statements in verses 1-4? How does Paul suggest that the Philippian believers’ connection to Jesus should affect their relationships with one another?
In verse 5, Paul urges the Philippians to have the “same mindset as Christ Jesus.” What stands out about Paul’s description of Jesus’ mindset in verses 6-8? Why is Jesus’ example of humility and servanthood so radical?
According to verses 9-13, what is the result of Jesus’ humble and sacrifical service? How does Paul urge Philippian believers (and us) to live in response?
How do your attitude and actions currently resemble Jesus’ humility and selfless service to others? How do they look different?
How might God be calling you to grow in humility and service to others? Are you open to this? If not, what is holding you back?
During my sophomore year, I encountered the Jesus that Paul describes here. I couldn’t help but walk away humbled - not self-loathing for my sinful arrogance- but in awe of God who climbed down the ladder to serve and even die to show his love for me. As I devoted my life to following Jesus, the rest of my time in the fraternity and my life since have looked much different.
To this day, the more I am able to place my focus off myself and onto Jesus, the more I am freed from the need for recognition or approval from anyone else. In other words, the more I follow this Humble Servant, the more I am freed to humbly serve. And the more I serve, the more attractive and fulfilling humility becomes to me.
In his book, Humility, Andrew Murray says, “Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
Unlike my early days in the fraternity, this kind of humility is something I long for now. I am learning that the way to get there is to fix my attention on Jesus and acknowledge my need for him daily. How about you? As you read about this Humble Servant, are you open to God growing you in humility and service to others this summer and come what may in the year ahead?
As I think about my time on staff with Greek IV, I thank God for countless examples of student-leaders who have chosen to lay down their desires and plans to humbly serve God and their brothers or sisters. Their legacies of pointing others to Christ through their attitudes and actions live on today.
What if your life, your chapter, and the Greek community were marked by this kind of radical humility and servanthood above all else? As cliche as it might sound, I believe this could change the world.
Humility, anyone? Lord, make us humble. Help us to follow your lead.