“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
-C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”
Over the past month, I have recognised that I am often slow to accept help and even slower to ask for help. With a newborn in the family, people have so generously been offering help- in both the day-to-day jobs and in the form of bringing around meals. As I have prayed through my struggle with accepting help, the Holy Spirit has revealed to me that not accepting help can actually be a form of ‘false’ humility and relying so heavily on my own capabilities actually has its root in pride. (Ouch!)
As I have read passages of Luke, I have seen the beauty of Jesus’ humble strength and realised again the grace we find in His gift of new life that is given at the cross. Instead of scoffing at the struggles of man, Jesus took time to gently lead people to Himself- the Source of a new heart and life. Jesus listened and then with grace and strength met them at their point of need; the greatest need being knowledge of, and relationship with, the Saviour.
On a smaller scale, Paul understood what it was to be great and boast in his own abilities. Yet after he met Jesus, he was transformed. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul writes of humility, urging the church of Philippi to model the humility found in Jesus:
“2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 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, 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, 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. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I love that humility is developed in us through the Holy Spirit and we are empowered by Him. In this passage, we see five principles of humility:
- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit (v.3)- we need to check our motives for what we do. Are our motives God-honouring? Jesus was motivated by His love for the Father and submission to Him.
- Count others more significant than yourself (v.3)- are we placing pride in our own abilities or do we consider others more important? Are we quick to judge others and voice our opinions on the matter because we think they need to be shared? Jesus took time to listen and minister to those He came in contact with. Repeatedly, we are told that Jesus withdrew to a quiet place due to exhaustion, yet often the crowds followed Jesus. What was His response? He had compassion on them (Mark 6:34).
- Look to the interests of others (v.4)- while looking to our own interests isn’t wrong (v.4a), it is through caring for others and looking to their interests that humility is cultivated. Jesus spent time feeding people and healing them, all the while pointing to their deeper need of forgiveness for their sin and restored relationship with the Father.
- Take the form of the servant (v.6)- Jesus gave up all, emptying himself by becoming man (v.7). This is the most amazing display of humility, yet also the hardest to understand. My mind struggles to understand God’s majesty and awesome power and authority and so consequentially, struggles to understand just all that Jesus’ gave up. I do though understand how unnatural serving others is; my first fleshly response is always to my ‘self’. But as we are equipped with a new heart, and our minds transformed in Christ Jesus (v.5), we can likewise serve others. I know Jesus washing His disciples feet is often what we equate with humility, and this is a great example of humility in action. Have you ever stopped to think that even Judas had his feet washed by Jesus? …and then Judas took these clean feet to betray the man who had just washed them! What care and service Jesus shows in being a servant even to the man who was just about to betray Him.
- Be obedient (v.8)- Finally, Paul reminds us that Jesus showed ultimate humility by His obedience to the Father, even to death on the cross. This is love- not that we loved God- but that He loved us and gave Himself (1 John 4:10). It is not because we are so great that we become children of God, rather because Jesus was so great and submitted to the Father’s will. Likewise, we are to submit to God and humbly live out the reality of the grace we have been given.
These 5 principles then cause us to ask, “how can we serve people with this form of humility?” We can serve others through setting our eyes on our eternal hope. If there is no eternity with God, it would be insane to serve others. Instead, we would be trying to get ‘to the top’ by looking out for ourselves. But we know that eternity with God is a reality. We too, can set our minds on things above and live out the truth that ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:19-26). While we are in the flesh, we are to be fruitful in the labour of sharing the glorious grace of God, ministering to those who come into our lives as Jesus did. And, as we are transformed day by day, the Holy Spirit can reveal our pride and thankfully pull it out by the root, replacing it with the humility that is ours in Christ Jesus.