Philippians 2:3 (New Revised Standard Version)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
What does it mean to regard others as better than ourselves? Don’t we all have equal value before God?
This passage doesn’t comment on our innate worth—that we are each infinitely precious and lavishly loved by God is not in question. Rather, the passage exposes the prideful state of our hearts that can hurt our relationships. Too often we selfishly exalt ourselves to such an extent that we cannot clearly see or respond to others as God would desire. Pride nudges us to favor ourselves and promote our own interests at the expense of others. More than any other sin, pride separates us from each other and from God.
To regard another as better than myself means to get myself out of my own way, enough so that I can see and hear the needs of those around me and be moved to compassion. Humility, or “lowliness of mind,” helps me to set aside any anxiety about taking care of myself that would prevent me from reaching out to help others. When we recognize that all our worth comes from our Creator Father and all our righteousness from the Son who paid for our sins, we can surrender our inflated sense of worth, relying on God’s promise that he will lift us up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).
With God’s help, we can practice replacing our pride with an attitude of humility. Here is a challenge for you: Try putting someone else’s interests above your own for one day. Choose a person and commit to the following statement:
Today I will exalt [person’s name] above myself. I will pay close attention to this person’s needs and wants and circumstances. For one day I will look for indications of what pleases or frustrates, what helps or hurts, what soothes or scares this person. For this one day I will gently and respectfully do all I can to help and encourage this person and not expect anything in return, not even an acknowledgement of my efforts. I will not count the cost to myself or congratulate myself or tell others of my generosity. For this one day, whenever I am inclined to put my own desires ahead of this person’s, I will instead remember only that God loved me so much that he sent Jesus to suffer unselfishly in my place. God reached out to me not because I deserve grace but because he loved me and saw my hopeless circumstance and was moved to compassion. For one day he put my needs above those of his Son and saved me through the sacrifice on the cross.
It has been said that true humility lies not in putting ourselves down but in lifting others up. Learning to regard others as better than ourselves positions us to be lifted up by God in his good time.
FATHER, I confess to a high opinion of myself that is wholly undeserved. Forgive me for all the times I have hurt and frustrated others because of my prideful pursuits. I ask for grace to see myself as I truly am and to appreciate that everything good in me is the result of your loving hand on my life. Help me in this challenge to put another person above myself for one day. Teach me to be humble like Jesus, who became nothing, a lowly servant who died a shameful death for me, and was exalted to the highest place with you in your good time.
Proverbs 3:34; Philippians 2:5-11
What did this humility challenge teach you about this one person? about yourself? about God?