This past week in our series on Philippians we looked at verses 1-16 in chapter 2 we talked about finding Joy through humility.
I just had a follow-up thought about the relationship between having humility before God and having humility before other people.
It can often appear like we have one while lacking the other, but really I believe they go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.
For example, it can appear as if we see God as very big, as if we trust him with our lives. But if we refuse to submit to the needs of others, to put others’ hurts above ourselves, to put others fears above ourselves, to put others’ desire to be understood above our own desire to be understood, then what we show is that we see ourselves as 2nd biggest. God is bigger than me, but I’m bigger than everyone else.
However to truly understand who God is and who we are in light of that, there is no room to look down on others. It is, in essence, not possible to have a humble view of God and yet be condescending toward others in the same moment.
Paul called himself the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). And he actually said “I am the worst….” It was present-tense. If he saw himself as the worst of all sinners, then he saw himself as no more deserving than anyone else of the grace of God on his life. And that’s where humility before others comes in. To understand the depths of our sin before a holy God, and be touched by his extravagant grace, leads to us knowing, in the depths of our soul, that others are just as deserving of blessing and grace as we are. It leads to us actually having the desire to put others’ needs before our own, because our Joy in God just overflows onto others (vs. doing it because it’s “the right thing.”)
But on the flip side — it can appear as if we are humble with other people while also having a small view of God. We can serve others, put their needs before our own, but do it to earn God’s favor or make up for past sins or put him in our debt. I would argue, though, that if we do not have a humble view of God, then the “humility” that it appears we have with other people really is not humility after all.
Because if we do things in order to earn God’s favor or put him in our debt, then we are not driven by joy and gratitude but rather a strange form of duty-bound religion. And thus people become religious projects. And I think this is why those who appear very humble often allow themselves to be taken advantage of over and over again — because they are making some form of atonement unto God, trying to earn what they can never earn.
So again — I argue that humility before God leads to humility before others…….and the joy of our humility before others shows how humble we are before God.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
– Philippians 2:1-5