HUMILITY – THE SCANDALOUS VIRTUE

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus – Philippians 2:1-5

By recommending “lowliness of mind” (Philippians 2:3), Paul fired a broadside at the Philippian culture – and our own. Like us, the Greeks and Romans exalted the lifestyles of the rich and famous!

Lowliness in mind? Who would want that? A “lowly” (or humble) person meant a slave – a servile, groveling, wretched individual. And for Paul to associate the word “lowly” with “mind” was a laughable contradiction: everyone assumed that lowly people had no intelligence, and everyone honoured higher thinking and self-conceit.

The idea of humility seemed especially out of place in Philippi. The town hosted a military colony by the pretentious-sounding name of Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. Unlike other conquered towns, it enjoyed the jus Italicum (law of Italy), which made it a sort of small, self-governing version of the empire. Pride and self-importance were part and parcel of Philippian life in Paul’s day.

Yet Paul insisted that Christians there cultivate humility – but not a groveling, abject demeanor. No, biblical humility means not thinking of oneself more highly than is true (For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. – Romans 12:3), but rather acknowledging what one is – with all of one’s strengths and weaknesses, pluses and minuses, successes and failures.

Far from self-loathing, real humility makes people so truthful that they don’t hesitate, when necessary, to tell about even their good qualities.

Do you want true humility? It comes from seeing yourself in relation to God. No wonder, then, that this virtue ran counter to the Roman worldview. Their concept of a god was grossly similar to their concept humanity, and the mythological Roman gods were hardly noble.

By contrast, Jesus praised the humble, “the poor in spirit,” (literally. “the destitute,” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:3).

What would that attitude look like? David expressed it in Psalm 39:4-6:

“Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapour. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.

Likewise the prophet Micah warns that humility is one of three main virtues that ought to govern our lives.  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? – MICAH 6:8.

Humility is not an option for us believers – it is an essential if we want to walk with God. Over and again, Scripture insists that we either walk humbly with Him, or not at all. “Though the Lord is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.” – Psalm 138:6.

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:5-7

In short, a biblical lifestyle knows nothing of looking out chiefly for ‘number one’. Just the opposite. With John the Baptist we need to say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” – John 3:30.

HUMILITY AFFECTS FOUR CRUCIAL AREAS OF EVERYDAY LIFE:

  1. Our view of ourselves.
  2. Our attitude toward controlling our circumstances.
  3. How good or bad we think we are.
  4. Our perspectives on status and power.

Culled from The Word in Life Study Bible.

Remain Blessed!

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