Humility in Philippians

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others…. Do everything without grumbling or arguing.
Philippians 2:3-4, 14

These words in Paul’s letter to the Philippians certainly still catch our attention today. “Don’t be selfish” may be a common enough message today, but the next lines cut much deeper. Instead, we should be humble. Well, this isn’t too bad… most people today at least like the idea of humility, as opposed to bragging or boasting. But Paul speaks to a specific type of humility.

God’s definition of humility 

We are called to “value others above yourselves.” We are to “do everything without grumbling.” Really? Everything? That is a tall order! Actually, these verses are separated by very important text as well. Verses 6-11 call us to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” and to be a servant for all, being absolutely obedient to anything God wills to happen – and Jesus was obedient “even to death on a cross.”

If you read these verses and find yourself thinking “that’s just impossible,” you are right. This is impossible. It is hard to put our child or parent’s interests above our own… it is impossible to do this for people we don’t even know, let alone love. And we may know people who rarely argues, but we don’t know anyone who never grumbles or complains.

It is possible in Jesus

But there is good news! This is impossible for us, but it is very possible for God. Indeed, verses 6-11 specifically highlight how Jesus did these very “impossible” things. And if we have chosen to follow Jesus, then He is living in us, and the more that we spend time with him, the more we will begin to find these verses possible for us too. We will be less selfish. We will grumble less. We will look out for others more, and more, and more.

You may find it helpful to take some time reflecting on the following Scriptures which help us see God’s call for humility:
1 Peter 5: 5b-11
Proverbs 22: 1-5
2 Chronicles 7: 11-22