“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” — Philippians 2:3-4
In the first few months of marriage, I made a silly, secret decision to give my husband the best portion of dinner with each meal. With pizza, I would make sure he had the cheesiest slice. I would save him the most marinated, juicy piece of chicken and pick out the non-burnt vegetables. I am not a world-class chef, so this often meant I ate the crispy veggies and overcooked meat. I intended this exercise to bless my new husband, but over time, it became an exercise in humility. This habit often acted like a mirror, reflecting an image of a selfishness that existed right under the surface of my newlywed bliss. It was harder than I expected to give up the best slice of pizza. It was even harder to serve quietly without seeking recognition.
The natural bent toward sin inside us prompts us to elevate ourselves above our neighbors. We feel like we deserve the best portion, or the new handbag, or a night uninterrupted. We balk at inconveniences. We chase after compliments and listen to podcasts about building self-love. But Jesus calls us to a different lifestyle—one that kneels low to lift up God’s glory and others’ good. See, the gospel is a story of love shown through humility. Philippians 2:5–6 says,
Christ Jesus who, existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.
Christ set the bar high for humility. And if we call ourselves followers of Christ, we are to follow His example.
A Right Understanding of Self
So how do we cultivate a heart of humility? First, we must humble our view of ourselves. Scripture tells us that our best deeds are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, ESV). Our mouths lie and speak ill of our neighbors. We are quick to complain and curse the good gifts from God. And we do so, even while wearing the badge of “Christian.” The walk of a believer is one of continuous wrestling of our flesh. To grow in our humility, we must first have the right view of ourselves. We are in desperate need of our Savior. Anything good in us is by the miraculous work of Christ. All glory goes not to ourselves, but to Him, who is worthy of endless praise. Only through Him, are our ashes turned to beauty.
Repentance is the act of turning away from sin and back to God. Repentance is not just a one-time act—it’s a continual process of submitting ourselves before the Lord’s instruction throughout our lives. By practicing repentance, we grieve the sin inside us, acknowledge it before God, and in turn, gain deeper reverence for the grace we receive through Christ. Repentance turns the direction of our feet away from treading toward the world, and back to God’s Kingdom. It is right there, in the humble act of posturing ourselves low before the Lord, that we will gain exactly what our heart longs for—belonging to the family of God.
Remember Your Treasure in Heaven
We are called to perseverance as the Christian. We can sacrifice our comfort here on Earth because our treasure is found in heaven. Christ’s humility in laying down His life shows the depths of His love for us. Likewise, our humility, our daily commitment to consider others better than ourselves, reflects Christ’s love to those around us. We can embrace lowliness now, knowing that our reward in heaven will be well worth the wait.
Humble and gentle. These are the profound descriptors that Christ used for Himself in Matthew 11:29. If we desire to grow in Christ-likeness, a pursuit of humility is a priority. Jesus’s humility made Him welcoming and approachable. He did not demean others with arrogance, even though He held all knowledge and all power. No, He associated touched the diseases and held conversations with the outcasts. He dined with the sinners and the poor. He did not pursue riches or social clout. His stance was one of compassion. Jesus teaches us that humility is love in action. By cultivating our humility, we can introduce a weary world to the rest offered in Christ.