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.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
Read: Philippians 2:1-11
Consider: Much is said about pride throughout the Bible. We are probably all familiar with what it says in Proverbs 16:18 – ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’. While this is a good warning, it doesn’t give us a very clear picture of how pride manifests itself in the human heart.
In the verses quoted above from Philippians 2 Paul highlights two manifestations of pride in the human heart. These are ‘selfish ambition’ and ‘vain conceit’. Both come from a desire to put ourselves above others, our needs above their needs. In Romans 12 Paul highlights two problems with pride. Firstly, that pride tends to result in a person having an inflated opinion of their own value or importance – ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you’ (12:3). Secondly, pride can result in a person seeing others as being ‘beneath them’, resulting in certain members of society being ignored and shunned – ‘Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited’ (12:16).
Pride is a form of deceit. It deceives us into thinking that we are more important than we really are – ‘If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load’ (Galatians 6:3-5).
If pride is evidence of someone not living in harmony with God, humility is evidence that a person is living a Christlike life. Of course there is also false humility and this can be manifested in someone’s life. However, this humility is not real, as it is based on what humans think humility is, rather than what God thinks.
In the NIV, Philippians 3:1-11 is given the heading of ‘Imitating Christ’s Humility’ and this is a useful summary of what this portion of Scripture contains. In Philippians 3:5 we are told: ‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …’ At first this seems a very tall order. How can we, mere humans, ever have the same attitude as Christ? The answer is that humility is something that only comes through being close to God and being willing to be under his authority. In 1 Peter 5:6 it says: ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time’.
Let me leave you with the words of Colossians 3:12-14
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’.
Pray: Father, we pray that you would protect us from pride that elevates ourselves about others and keeps us from real unity in Christ. May we be willing to sit under your authority and to allow your Holy Spirit to clothe us with the attitude of Christ. Amen