Humility in Action

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

In these verses we find several actions or mindsets required for a joyful and humble life – a life that longs to see the advance of the gospel. The problem Paul addresses is an issue in the church at Philippi -- the presence of selfishness and pride. But when he writes: “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,” he is speaking not only to a Philippian issue, but also about a cancer that is present in every member of the human race. We must first admit this ugliness in ourselves in order to begin living gospel joy and become the people Christ intends. Here’s the challenge: before each and every thing you do ask: “For whom am I doing this?” Our answers may be discouraging as we are confronted with our own selfishness. But have faith -- Jesus is a spiritual surgeon who specializes in removing selfishness. 

The second mindset is one of humility – this word in the original language offers the idea of lowliness of mind. This fits with the words that follow: “count others more significant than yourselves.” Does this sound difficult -- perhaps impossible? A helpful action step I’ve taken is to recognize that humility begins by thinking high thoughts of God. If we, like Paul, think exalted thoughts of God, selfishness becomes increasingly powerless as we think of ourselves less. Additionally, a preoccupation with Jesus causes a mind in us that desires to help and prioritize not just the people we like, but also our enemies -- because this is exactly what Christ did! So if you struggle with humility – as all of us inevitably will -- the answer is to look more often to God and his humbling and joy-giving gospel. 

The third action or mindset is this: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The example that comes to mind is Jesus before He divided the loaves and fishes. Surely Jesus was hungry -- just as He was when Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread. But instead of asking His disciples to bring food for Himself, He first had compassion on others. I believe Paul is assigning us a very practical exercise we can do today. When we notice any need that we might have, let us first stop and ask the question “Who else has this same need, and how could I fulfill it for them before I fulfill it for myself?”  

By Matthew Rondeau

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