“Take off your armor,” humility whispers.
Stoop to the lowest place. Be willing to admit your wrongs. Be ready to set aside your rights.
“But I don’t want to!” my pride cries. Because the glaring thing about humility is that it is unnatural for us. It never feels too comfy.
The humility of Christ calls us away from the way we try to forge walls to defend ourselves—to fight for our rights and our reputations.
Instead, God asks us to follow in His footprints. But those footprints? They often spiral directly down a trail to surrender and submission—things I, for one, am not so good at practicing. You?
The idea of submission tends to make us rigid and resistant. We struggle with yielding our rights. We don’t want to set aside what we feel we ought to have. Why? Perhaps we find certain uses of authority to be unreasonable or over-the-top confining. Surely the problem is with our authority, not us.
If they loved me more . . .
If the rules were fair . . .
If they weren’t so unreasonable . . .
If they had any concept of the word “grace” . . .
I am guilty of having gathered up all my excuses and heaping them in a pile of blame at someone else’s feet. Unfortunately, that kind of blame-shifting pride has never been pleasing to God. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve tried this pride-filled tactic, God held each of them accountable for their own actions. Because of their sin, not Satan’s influence, they had to leave the garden (Gen. 3).
Caught with a Secret Coffeepot
My college had a long set of rules. Once, I was reprimanded for having a forbidden species of coffeepot under the bathroom sink. But the problem was not that I had hidden a coffeepot to avoid having it confiscated. The problem was that I willfully removed myself from yielding beneath the authority God had placed over me. (Over coffee, no less.)
But what about these verses?
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1).
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb. 13:17).
We submit to God by yielding to those He has placed over us. We refuse to submit to God when we refuse to yield to those people.
Did Jesus really care about my coffeepot? Probably not. But He absolutely cares about my heart. He is concerned about my tendency to willfully skirt around the decisions of my authorities.
The choice to willfully reject authority does something to our hearts. With time, my heart accumulated more and more resentment toward my authorities. When I was confronted or reprimanded about small things, anger grew and festered inside of me. Even while I outwardly submitted, inwardly I was complaining.
That shifted when I began studying Philippians 2. I was so struck by:
- The humility of Christ.
- His lowliness of mind.
- How He emptied Himself.
- How He didn’t view His rights as something to cling to.
- The form He took—of a servant. How He became obedient—even unto death on the cross.
God started sweeping away all my excuses and pride, stripping back layer after layer of my own sinfulness. There, with all the layers of filth exposed, God brought me face-to-face with a precious piece of wisdom I’ve not forgotten:
“Do not view yourself as someone to be served.”
From Pride to Humility
As I walked through each day, God began to reveal the corners of my heart where I viewed myself as entitled to be served. He showed me my lack of humility through things that annoyed and upset me.
In belligerent pride and a white-knuckled grip on our rights, we look nothing like Christ. Humility bled from Him—literally. He wasn’t about claiming His rights. So, why are we so prone to snatching them up?
Listen to how He described Himself in Matthew 11:29: “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Read Philippians 2:5–8 intentionally, as if it applies to you. (Because it does!)
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.
Jesus’ humility is initially described as His mindset, which was of relinquishing rights (did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped) and stooping (emptied Himself, found in human form, humbled Himself) in order to please His Father by meeting the needs of a sinful world (obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross).
Jesus could have shown up on earth and taken ownership of the world, but He didn’t. Again and again, the Son of God yielded Himself and His logical rights to the thing He had created—mankind. He held Himself beneath the laws of the land. Washing feet. Giving up sleep and food to minister to needs. The God of Creation, paying taxes. Crucified in the most degrading fashion possible. Not defending, not arguing, not insisting on His own way.
Just stooping, giving, submitting. Even allowing Himself to be insulted and mistreated for the sake of His Father’s purposes. Utterly resting in His Father’s will.
He left us a tangible example. Our society says, “You deserve . . .” and “Fight for . . .” and “It’s your life . . .” But Jesus strips the curtain of society in two and says, “Follow Me.” Give up. Subject yourself. Deny yourself. Give more.
He came as a servant, not a king.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24).
If humility were easy, we would have no need to discuss it. Humility is a grueling battle, one we cannot win without Christ’s enabling grace and strength. And as we wholeheartedly pursue our Savior and behold His multifaceted humility, God chisels away at our own hearts, etching His humility into the way we speak and go about our lives.
If humility is an area of your life where you’d like to see growth, why not take a day or a week to dig into Philippians 2:1–11? We’d love to hear what God is teaching you about humility in the comments below.