Humility of Christ


"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:5-11

This passage shares with us the humility of Christ. Paul has instructed the Philippians to strive to be “of one mind,” and to achieve this by considering others before themselves, and putting the wants and needs of others before their own. To underscore how important this is, he introduces the best example of humility and self-sacrifice for the sake of others: Jesus himself.

We could spend weeks unpacking all of the theology in these few verses, but for today I want us to grasp the big picture of what Paul is saying about Jesus here. First, he wants their like-mindedness to ultimately be like-mindedness with Christ. It is his attitude that they (and we) should emulate. And Christ’s example of humility is one that no-one on earth could surpass.

Jesus was and is divine. Prior to being born to this world in a manger in Bethlehem, Jesus shared in all the divine attributes. However, in order for God’s plan of salvation to come about, it was necessary for Christ to set aside the privileges that come with divine status, and become, incarnated, enshrined in flesh, and subject to time, hunger, temptation, and even death. He did not cease being divine, but this was certainly a step down, similar to a king being reduced to a beggar.

The language of these verses is poetic, and it is thought by many that this was an early Christian hymn that Paul’s readers would have known. From this hymn we sense the depth of humility that the Son of God was willing to show by lowering himself not just to our level, but even lower than that.

Most of us don’t have to experience the kind of ill-treatment Christ did while on earth. He was beaten, mocked, and eventually crucified by those who should have worshiped him. And he did this for our salvation. Certainly, upon his resurrection, Christ was exalted and restored to his former glory. And one day, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess him as Lord.

If Christ was willing to humble himself like that, how much more should we, Christians, display that same kind of humility to one another. Not exalting ourselves over each other, but considering the needs of others as more important than our own.

Almighty and Gracious God, show me through your Word how to be a more effective servant in the coming year. Amen.
Dec 2 2017