High Self-Esteem as Opposed to Humility (Philippians 2:1-16)

In the wisdom of this world, we are taught to have a high self-esteem. We’re to be proud of what we’ve achieved. Our culture says we should think we are better than others or strive hard to be the best. Is that what God’s word teaches us?

Humility is such an rare trait in our world isn’t it? From Wiktionary humility is “modesty, lack of pride (with respect to one’s achievements)”.

God Honors the Humble

Let’s look at what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:

    Vs 1-4 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself”. That’s the opposite of high self-esteem! We are called to think of others as better than us. We are tasked with taking care of ourselves and at the same time we are to look out for and help others around us. (If by now you are concerned that I’m saying that you and I are no good or unworthy of love, see my clarification note at the end.)

King David was a beautiful example of humility. While the world teaches us to believe in ourselves and have confidence in what we can do, that was the opposite of how King David lived his life. David’s confidence was in The Lord!

    It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
    ~ Psalm 118:8

    Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
    O my soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You. ~ Psalm 16:1-2

    The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident. ~ Psalm 27:1-3

Later in Philippians we read from Paul:

    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
    ~ Philippians 4:13

The Bible very simply instructs us not to have confidence in ourselves but in The Lord. We see that lesson all throughout Scripture.

No one seemed to know that better than Job. Here was a man who was incredibly wealthy and prosperous for his time. Yet when all of that was taken away from him and he was stripped of all wealth and even his children were taken, he knew it was God that had given it all to him.

    And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
    ~ Job 1:21

Job had not “earned” his wealth and his good life in his own strength, or wisdom, or cunning, or power. He knew it all came from the God of the universe.

Jesus as the Ultimate Example

    Vs 5-11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is God. He is one person of the Trinity along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Yet He set the example for the rest of us to follow. Jesus Christ was humbly born on earth in a human body that suffered all of the limitations our bodies have. He was born into a lowly and humble family, and He died the death of a criminal for a bunch of sinners (you and me).

From David Guzik:
– He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
– He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
– He was humble in that He was born into poverty, among a despised people.
– He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
– He was humble in submitting to the obedience of a child in a household.
– He was humble in learning and practicing a trade – and a humble trade of a builder.
– He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
– He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
– He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
– He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
– He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
– He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
– He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
– He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
– He was humble in the agony of His death.
– He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
– He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus became as humble as possible. You and I could not become more humble than Christ was. He was ridiculed, beaten, abused, poor, accused, on trial multiple times, and then murdered. Yet, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name”.

God wants us to be humble, and He honors and exalts (lifts up) the humble.

    He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
    ~ Micah 6:8

    A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
    ~ Proverbs 29:23

Work Out Your Salvation – What?

    Vs 12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

“We know that Paul did not mean ‘work so as to earn your own salvation.’ Such a statement would contradict the whole of Paul’s gospel. What Paul did mean is to call the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christians lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation – to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them.”
~ Guzik

“These words, as they stand in the New Testament, contain no exhortation to all men, but are directed to the people of God. They are not intended as an exhortation to the unconverted; they are, as we find them in the epistle, beyond all question addressed to those who are already saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
~ Spurgeon

No Whining!

    Vs 14-16 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

It’s winter where I live as I write this. This week it the temperatures have been below zero at times. I really don’t like being cold. As a matter of fact, I whine a lot when it’s cold – I’m a wimp like that. I admit to having a difficult time doing “all things without complaining”.

But on a deeper and more sinful level, I have also been known to complain and dispute about doing things asked of me at school, at work, and at home. God certainly calls us to obey those in authority over us. Many times my complaints were not spoken to those I was responsible to – like my teachers, bosses, parents, or spouse. Rather I complained to people around me about how I was treated or about what I was asked to do. This would be my school friends, or perhaps my coworkers. In those times of sin and selfishness when my faith and my humility was weak, my “light in the world” was dimmed. When I’m complaining to those around me, they don’t see Jesus! They see my flesh and my weakness. They see a whiner when they look at me in those times.

Often, God calls us to do things or to serve Him and others in ways that we don’t like. God is asking us to do those things not only without complaint, but with a cheerful heart!

Check out the how blessed the man is who obeys God with a cheerful heart versus how cursed the man is who disobeys, or who doesn’t serve with a cheerful heart.

    Vs 1-6 Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.
    And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
    Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
    Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
    Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
    Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

    Vs 47-48 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.
    Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 47-48

God desires that we serve Him in gladness and joy, and with a whole heart! It’s a choice we each have to make. Lord help me to serve you joyfully no matter what you ask of me!

The Israelites Response

Joshua speaking on behalf of God to the Israelites when he said:

    Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    ~ Joshua 24:14-15

We are each called to serve God. Period.

We’re called to serve God humbly, knowing that He has given us everything.

We’re also called to serve The Lord joyfully and with hearts of gladness and thankfulness.

Some will choose to serve Him. Some will choose not to serve Him. But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.

{For clarification, let me add that I don’t believe that in regards to self-esteem, God is saying that we are not worth His love. As a matter of fact, we are created in His image and He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us! When He created the earth and mankind in the Genesis, the Bible tells us “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen 1:31)

The point I’m trying to make regarding humility is simply that we are to know our place. We are not strong, brilliant, fast, wealthy, or blessed – unless God makes it so. We have no reason for confidence in our own awesomeness. If we have anything good or are good at anything, it comes from The Lord.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
~ James 1:17}

Other great resources:

These Things I Have Spoken

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly, By Faith

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