Philippians 2:3, 5-6 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves…. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”
I don’t think humility has ever been easy to come by but you could make the case that in our modern society humility is at a real disadvantage—hardly anything is helping this virtue along. We live in a staggeringly individualistic culture where making our selfies seen, voices heard, accomplishments known feel vital to our existence. Everything from relentless comparisons to the unsustainable expectations we try to attain so we can hold our pride intact work against the gem of a humble disposition.
How do we possess the humble mind of Christ when everything is working against us?
Ask yourself what it is you’re holding onto
In verse 6 of our text Paul explains that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped—or seized, carried off by force, held as a prize. For Jesus to have humbled Himself in the form of a servant He had to forfeit the inherent rights He possessed as God’s equal. If Jesus had considered equality with God something to be clutched He wouldn’t have humbled Himself to the point of the cross. Jesus let go of what was rightfully His—enjoying the benefits of equality with God—for the higher good, His ultimate calling. When humility feels impossible we have to start with the question: what am I grasping onto?
My Rights? My Being Right? Seen? Celebrated?
That person I’m trying to impress?
More money? The chance to get my way? The upper hand?
What’s rightfully “mine”?
Release your rights and agendas to God
I confess to you, dear reader, that sometimes I find my panicky little fingers practically arthritic around some form of achievement or advancement I think is necessary to my happiness. I can choke my version of success in my grip until it’s gasping. Other times I grasp onto people to meet my heart’s longings. (No one enjoys this, in case you were in any way curious). Being seen as right or having done the right thing—or simply being right—become all consuming measuring rods leaving us feeling smug or small.
Finding freedom from my pride always requires a releasing. I must let go. Yes, of pride, but of what’s specifically in my hands.
Open your hands to receive what can never be taken from you
Humility seems like a study in emptiness, but I’m convinced humility is the only avenue to God’s fullness in our lives. The HCSB Dictionary says, “It is a ‘great paradox in Christianity that it makes humility the avenue to glory.’”
In humility Jesus released equality with God, came to earth, died on a shameful cross. But He was never empty handed. Jesus let go of what was rightfully His to hold little children in His lap. Touch the skin of a leper. Take the hand of a twelve year-old girl. Put an ear back on a soldier’s head. Feed the five thousand. Pass the cup of communion. Open his hands to be pierced by nails. Flip fish over a fire where He restored Peter after His resurrection.
And God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names.
What are you grasping? Humility says, you don’t need to grasp what this world values. Humble yourself, let go, and see what God will put in your hands. And when He does you won’t even have to choke or clutch what He gives you, all His blessings will remain.