Devotional Reading: James 2:13-18
Lesson Scripture: Philippians 2: 5-11
Lesson Aims: To explain the importance of humility; to understand the humility of Christ; and to seek ways to become a selfless servant.
Background: Paul’s letter to the Philippians thanked them for their donation and encouraged them for the days ahead. He was sincere and enthusiastic about Jesus being the standard measure for selfless service. James 2: 13-18 and Luke 14:11 both reinforce the concept. Once giving them a new way to view his personal predicament (last week), Paul wanted to equip them for possible divisions within the body.
Paul’s desire was for them to have a strong witness for Christ. Humility was/is the foundation that makes unity possible. For most believers, that may prove difficult because the world standard views humility as a weakness, not a strength. They must remember to remain focused (one in spirit) regardless of the situation.
Lesson: The apostle uses his current imprisonment as an example of joy in the midst of trouble. The outcome of his situation (life or death) isn’t certain because Roman justice wasn’t like ours, at least on paper. With all of the uncertainties, Paul continues to have joy because of Jesus! Rome doesn’t give it to him, and they can’t take it away. He shares with them what “life in Christ” really means. He invites them to take a closer look at the Savior, Jesus Christ. These verses (6-11) are referred to as the Christ-Hymn. Its focus is on the humility and exaltation of Jesus. The song begins with the original status and attitude of Jesus. Though He was/is divine from the beginning, He did not exploit that status. Instead He empties Himself to become human. In other words, the powerful is rendered powerless (like a slave) to complete His task here on earth. He lowers Himself to face death like every mortal does. Only slaves are crucified, symbolizing their lack of status (civil rights) in society. This is total abasement according to the world but for God, it epitomizes humility. God responds to Jesus’ selfless sacrifice by elevating Him. Christ’s obedience is rewarded.
The name of Jesus is lifted higher than any name. Where He is brought low (His choice) – God exalts Him! In a simple sentence, the hymn paraphrased says “He who in selfless obedience took on the powerlessness of a slave now through divine commission and investiture (authority) holds universal Lordship over all creation” (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary). This, my brothers and sisters, is exaltation.
Application: Now what does this mean and how does it look for the Philippian believers and us? It is very important to have pride in yourself; however you must not think of yourself as better than anyone else. That speaks volumes for believers. As a body in Christ, the fastest unity killing disease is arrogance. Anytime one begins to look down on others (including ideas), strife and contentious spirits arise.
Selfless service disappears! Whenever you begin to get puffed up (and we will because we’re human), just remember Jesus’ humility. Our witness is about Him, not us. Churches must remember this as well. For it isn’t about size, numbers of professionals, or the tithes – Jesus came to save all of us from doom! Make a personal commitment to serve in a selfless manner without getting recognition. God sees all and knows all. He alone gives the lasting rewards! Examine yourself; do you act like Jesus?