Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Humility is such a difficult character trait to have. Because once we think we’ve attained it, we just lost it! But what is humility? And what does it look like?
Webster’s dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble.” As for a perfect example of humility, there is only one: Jesus Christ.
Last time, we learned that we must count others as more important than ourselves, which takes humility plus love. However, Paul doesn’t leave us with an impossible command; he gives us an example of what this looks like. He gives us the example of Jesus, who had both perfect humility and unfathomable love. So let’s take a look at what Paul has to say about Christ and His humility.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This passage is packed with deep truths and powerful concepts. So let’s uncover them one at a time.
Jesus was and is God. He existed with God from the beginning of time. He was there when creation began and holds all things together (Colossians). However, despite Jesus’ divinity, He was humble. He did not think too highly of Himself. But rather, Paul says He emptied Himself. This is powerful! For while we have reasons to be humble, Jesus was God! He was above all things and in control of all things. His power and might knew no bounds, and His glory was above the heavens. Yet, Jesus was humble and “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
Let’s stop and break this phrase down. In the Greek the word count literally means “to lead, i.e. command (with official authority); figurative to deem, i.e. consider :- account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.” In other words, Jesus did not consider, judge, suppose, or command that He was equal or the same as God.
The next important word in this phrase is grasp. This Greek word literally means “to plunder.” Or as Spiros Zodhiates translates it “to seize upon with force.” So Jesus did not suppose or consider equal-ness with God a thing to be taken by force or stolen. It wasn’t something He felt the right to take for Himself. Even though He was a member of the Trinity and had the power to hold the universe together, Jesus did not even consider stealing God’s glory or assuming equality with God the Father.
Wow! And here we are, sinful human beings and fallen people, and we think that we can know just as much as God or can tell Him what to do. How foolish! God’s very own Son did not consider Himself as equal with God, so how can we?!
But not only did Jesus not consider Himself equal, but He emptied Himself. In humility, He made Himself lower in order to bring God more glory.
Spiros Zodhiates gives us a really good definition of the Greek word for emptied: “to empty oneself, i.e. divest oneself of rightful dignity by descending to an inferior condition to abase oneself.” Jesus, the only Son of God, emptied Himself or divested Himself of rightful dignity by leaving His heavenly home and becoming like us. He lowered Himself and became like His creation. Think about that…
However, Jesus didn’t stop there. He humbled Himself by taking our form and then allowed us—His creation—to crucify Him.
That’s love. That’s humility. And that’s our perfect example. If Jesus humbled Himself to that extreme and did all that for us, how can we not also walk in humility? If the very One who made the universe and holds it together did not count Himself equal to God, how can we think that we’re better than God or greater than our neighbor?
Jesus’ humility is hard to wrap our minds around. We cannot even begin to fathom the depth of His sacrifice and how humbling it was for the Creator to become like the creation. However, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today. And because of His great obedience and humility, God exalted Him and has raised Jesus up to a place of unparalleled honor and glory for all eternity. As Paul writes:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him 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.”
Praise the Lord!