A Heart of Humility
Written by Denise J. Hughes (First 5 Ministries)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
One morning, my third-grade teacher walked by each student’s desk and wrote a tiny number on an individual slip of paper. My teacher wrote #3 on my paper. This meant I was the third best math student in the class, and I knew who had numbers one and two. They were my competition.
When it comes to competition, we come by it honestly. It is so much a part of the air we breathe, we may not even realize how much it impacts our lives. But comparison and competition inevitably lead to discouragement – depleting us of joy. And none of us are immune. Thankfully, a 2000-year-old letter to the Philippians shows us that while comparison and competition have always been around, neither needs to have the last word.
Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3).
A life of joy begins by rooting out any rivalry in our hearts. Because when competition exists between two people, it’s impossible to care about the other person’s needs at the same time. Thus, genuine heart-intimacy cannot exist.
Competition is incompatible with compassion, and a life that is full of competition but devoid of compassion is a joyless life. The solution is a heart of humility.
Paul continues, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Where the world tells us to pursue our own happiness, Scripture tells us to pursue the interests of others. So, how do we counteract the world’s message to put ourselves first in everything we do? How do we effectively put others first instead?
The key word in this passage is humility. In humility we can consider the needs of others above our own. The Greek word for humility here is tapeinophrosune. It means “lowliness of mind” – the quality of a modest mindset, or having a deep sense of one’s lowliness. But before we get too down on ourselves, there’s a very important caveat:
True humility comes when we compare ourselves to Christ, not to others.
Christ alone is perfect in all things. He is good and true and beautiful. No flaw exists in Him, and we can never measure up to Him. But by His grace with His Spirit living inside of us, we can become more like Him every day. This is our calling as believers: to be more like Christ. And as we become more like Him, we can – in humility – look to the interests of others. This, in turn, leads to true joy.
Christ-like selflessness is the much-needed prescription for a heart mired in rivalry.
It’s been a long time since I competed for the top spot in my third-grade math class, and I wish I could say that was the last time I ever compared myself to another person or tried to compete with another person. But by His sweet grace, I’ve also experienced that it really is more life-giving and joy-filling when I can genuinely celebrate the success of others. After a while, it actually becomes more fun to see others flourish, because we know when we are looking out for others, we can trust that God is looking out for us.