It Requires Strength and Power to be Humble

As at August 20, 2017, I confess that I have a difficulty with straight-line comparisons between myself and Jesus, for reasons that may or may not be obvious to you. The overarching reason is that He is God and I am not, and will never be. Arising out of that are a few specifics. The first is that God is, was, and at all times will be omnipotent. Omniscient and omnipresent. Jesus temporarily laid aside some of that ability, but not all. I fail on all three counts. Second, arising out of that is that He can do cool things like read thoughts, something that with much training, I can possibly learn to do with about a 10% accuracy rate when those thoughts are telegraphed by physical behavior.

Where the rubber hits the road is the subject material of Philippians 2:1-11. I am guilty of sin by association and by action. There are genetic and hereditary handicaps that predispose me to sin. Jesus had none of those. Equally true is that it was well within His ability to choose to sin, and it is a matter of fact that He chose not to sin. In fact He could testify in John 14:30 – “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me…” Why? Because Jesus was never associated with sin, either by nature, or by actions.

The result of the preceding is that I worship God, and I will never worship anyone equal to me. I do recognize that He owes me nothing, and that I owe Him everything. Because I love Him, I seek to obey Him and not to hurt Him, not only because He is able to hurt me permanently (Matthew 10:28), but far more so because he loves me and made the ultimate sacrifice in demonstration of His love for me (John 3:16). None of this earns me the right or the ability to compare myself with Jesus as motivation for my behavior.

That said, Philippians 2:5 is a command, but actually, one that points backward to verses 1-4, more than it points forward to one of the most confounding Theological issues – the hypostatic union of Christ.   And yet, faithful exegesis of the passage does not allow us to ignore the analogy, Against this background, I cautiously and critically approach Philippians 2:6-11 as any kind of a point of reference for Philippians 2:5b – “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

There are two extractable, applicable takeaways from verses 6-11. The first is that Jesus was ultimately powerful (Philippians 2:6), and Jesus was also ultimately humble (Philippians 2:8). The second is that His motive for self-humiliation was pure, noble and loftily embedded in love.

It is easy to be humble when you either believe you are nothing, or when you are nothing. It is an act of the will to be humble when you are everything, and know that you are everything. We must never confuse weakness with meekness. You must first be strong, before you can be meek. My childhood lullaby got it right – “Gentle Jesus meek and mild…”.

The focus of this passage is Philippians 2:2-5. First –  be like-minded among each other. Second – have the same love for each other. Third – be of the same spirit and of the same mind. Fourth – do not compete for pre-eminence or one-upmanship among each other. Fifth – value others above yourselves. Sixth – do not become obsessed with your own interests at the expense of the interests of others. Seventh – look out for the interests of each other. Finally, and all inclusively, have the same mindset of Jesus.

For us to satisfy the eight preceding admonitions, we must understand, accept and appreciate our positional status and strength in Christ Jesus. I am a Son of God, a Joint-heir with Jesus, a Fellow-citizen of heaven and these are my permanent heritage. This knowledge allows me to purposely appear to be weak when appropriate, because I know I am strong; and to voluntary give up or submit to the temporary loss of anything, because I know I own everything.

But like everything else, there is a caveat.  It is possible to humble yourself out of pride. It could be that you are the owner of the company, and in disguise you have small chat with an employee in anticipation of the moment when he discovers that you are the owner. That would violate the fourth admonition above. And it would certainly violate the mind-set of Christ. It is helpful to note that Jesus humbled Himself for a reason, and with a purpose. When our reason and purpose is to minister to those around us, edify each other and bring honor to the Name of Jesus, we would never be guilty of this motive violation.

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