Phillipians. My, what a letter. Do you realize how much God must have loved us to have inspired men like Paul to put down on papyri the simple things that make the Christian life so exciting! Here I was, reading Philippians chapter 2 (again) this morning, and I saw for the umpeeenth time the emphasis Paul puts on humility.
I wonder if you'd agree with me that at no other point does biblical Christianity come into more violent collision with the secular mind than in its insistence upon humility. The world despises humility. Western culture is more absorbed with the philosophy of Nietzsche than it is with the Bible. Nietzsche dreamed of the emergence of a "daring ruler race" -- brash, masculine, overbearing. His ideal was the übermensch, the superman. But the ideal of Jesus was a little child. There is no possible compromise between these two ideals. We have to choose between them, even during a presidential election cycle. To support a leader who exhibits an übermensch approach to politics is a person who betrays Christian ideals, especially if they claim to be a follower of Jesus. The Greek noun for "humility" is literally "lowliness of mind." True Christian behavior is impossible without a humble mind. How we treat other people depends almost entirely on how we think of people. So Paul writes, "with lowliness of mind, treat others as more important than yourselves," and "Christ Jesus ... did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead he emptied himself [and] humbled himself."
Conceit means to have an exaggerated view of one's own importance. Humility is to have due recognition of others because they have been created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and value. No true follower of Jesus would ever think of denigrating another person based on their physical appearance, ethnicity, or social status. Instead, a humble mind recognizes that the way up is down. The only way to be exalted is to humble ourselves.
How can we possibly claim to be growing in holiness -- in Christlikeness -- without also growing in humility? I particularly love Phil. 2:13: "For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you to do what he wants." How fantastic to know that is God is constantly working within us, helping us to want to obey. We can never obey God without this "want" to do so. And then to think that he will help us to do what he wants! Praise God!