Humility is a virtue that we usually commend in others. We, on the other hand, are more likely to defend ourselves rather than humble ourselves. We are quick to justify ourselves and our actions because we don’t want to admit our faults. In Philippians, Paul wants the church in Philippi to have a joyful faith and, in chapter 2, he shows us that the pathway of joy is paved with humility and the greatest example of humility is that of Jesus Christ. If you want genuine joy, you need to know Jesus as your Savior and Lord and you need to model your life after Him and be a humble servant (Matt 20:28).
The Call to Humility
Living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ brings “encouragement in Christ…comfort from love…participation in the Spirit…affection and sympathy” (2:1); therefore, Paul wrote, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (2:2). A life lived worthy of the gospel does “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count[s] others more significant than yourself” (2:3). Paul continues, “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4). Why is it hard for us to get along at times? It is because of pride, but the remedy for pride is humility. We must live peaceably with one another. Peace in the church comes from setting aside your rights and humbly serving one another. Christians will be joyful when they humble themselves and serve others.
The Example of Humility
To illustrate the importance of humility, Paul provides the greatest example of humility: Jesus Christ. Jesus perfectly exemplified verses 1-4. What is interesting about verses 5-11 is that many scholars believe this to be a hymn of the early church. It has been called the Carmen Christi (Christ hymn). Certain translations will display this in poetic form. It is most likely an early confession of faith and Paul uses it as a sermon illustration on humility.
The Preexistence of Christ
Paul starts with the fact that Jesus is not just a human being. Jesus is God the Son who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Paul quotes this hymn of Christ saying that before Jesus was born, He existed “in the form of God” (2:5). Jesus, Himself, mentioned His preexistence in John 17:5: “And now, Father, glorify Me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit exist together throughout all eternity. We get another glimpse of Jesus’ preexistence in Isaiah 6:1. Isaiah wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” (Is 6:1). The Apostle John tells us that “Isaiah said these things because he saw His [Jesus’] glory and spoke of Him” (John 12:41).
The Humility of Christ
Jesus–the Son of God–“did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (2:6-7). The ESV Study Bible describes this well when it says, “Paul is stressing that Christ, who had all the privileges that were rightly His as king of the universe, gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross.” Jesus did not remain in heaven with the Father and the Spirit but took on human form. Remember Paul’s main reason for referencing Christ in this section, Christ came to earth because in humility He did not look to His own interests, but to ours. Jesus knew we needed a Savior and He willingly came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). All of these actions are voluntary. Jesus chose to come into this world and chose to become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:8) so we may be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:19).
The Exaltation of Christ
Jesus’ humility was blessed by God the Father. The Father highly exalted the Son and “bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11).
The Way of Humility
If Jesus can humble Himself in order to serve others, you can too. Humility means considering others more significant than yourself. It means that you set aside your rights and your privileges and consider what is best for those around you. It is a commitment to serving others rather than yourself. While humility is a virtue that we usually commend in others, it is a necessary ingredient for the joy we desperately desire. The path to joy leads through Jesus and modeling your life after Him.
Ask Jesus to make you aware of your selfishness. Take time to prayerfully discern if you are counting others more significant than yourself. Do you spend more time advocating for your wishes and preferences or meeting the needs of those around you? Are you actively serving those in need around you? Who are the people whom God has placed in your life that need help? If you want joy, remember to keep the proper perspective for life: Jesus, Others, and lastly…You (JOY).