Do You Pride Yourself In Being Humble?

Text: Philippian 2:5-11

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The Apostle Paul says in our Epistle reading, to the church in Philippi, that we Christians ought to have the same mind as Christ. In other words, Paul is calling you and me to think with our minds in the same way as Jesus. 

And how did Jesus think and act? 

Well, He was humble.  Yes, Jesus – who is the Son of God – became a man, a true servant without sin.  From His birth to death, He was humble. 

And so, humility is crucial for Christianity, not only because Jesus was humble, but we can only receive Christ through humility as well. 

But there is a problem. The problem is that it takes a significant amount of humility to understand humility.  And when we talk about humility, it is so incredibly easy to become prideful about the ways we think that we are humble.[1]

You see, dear friends, humility is not something that you and I can accomplish by our strength and might. You cannot flex your muscles to be humble.  Furthermore, when you and I try to be humble, we are typically faking it. You know what I’m talking about, those times when you keep your mouth shut and try to keep from bragging, you are not humble, but merely muzzling your prideful thoughts.  Besides, after you have managed to keep your mouth shut, you become prideful about keeping your mouth shut.

It has been said before that humility is shy. It is so shy that when you start to talk about humility, it vanishes.  To try and be humble or to ask the question, “Am I humble,” often leads us to be proud of the ways that we think we are humble, kind of like humblebragging.[2]  You know, a humblebrag is when we self-depreciate ourselves to draw attention to how humble we are.

So, if we are to have the mind of Christ, which is humility, how do we become humble if we cannot even talk about humility?  How are we to be humble when our attempts to be humble turn so easily to pride?

Dear friends, the thing we have to understand about humility is that humility is not us thinking less of ourselves, but instead, it is thinking about ourselves less. Let me repeat that using different words.  Humility is not us depreciating ourselves or making ourselves go lower, but humility is turning away from ourselves altogether.[3]

Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit because it was desirable to their eyes.  Adam and Eve turned inward to themselves as the ultimate meaning and authority while eating the fruit to become like God.  And ever since, all of humanity has walked in Adam and Eve’s footsteps looking out for ourselves.

Let me state this as clearly as possible. When we look at ourselves, talk about ourselves, do things for ourselves, we are exhibiting pride. My pride looks to Matt Richard, worships Matt Richard, talks about Matt Richard, and thinks about Matt Richard. Pride is inward-focused and boastful about the unholy Trinity of me, myself, and I.  When I step into this pulpit every Sunday and hope that I look good before you, well… it is my damnable pride at work. 

Dear friends, it is important to keep in mind that your sinful nature is addicted to yourself. Your pride not only boasts about yourself, but it turns you inward on yourselves away from God and your neighbor.   

On the other hand, humility is the exact opposite of pride.  Yes, the humiliation of Jesus is the opposite of Adam, Eve, you, and me.  Jesus reverses the inward focus of mankind because He turns away from His honor and privilege as the Son of God to serve humanity – to serve you and me. In other words, Christ Jesus did not come to be served by you and me, but rather, to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

And so pride is when we look inward to self, and humility is to be turned from the inside ==> out to others.

Again, let me state this as clearly as possible. Humility is not about you pushing your way to the front. Humility is not about you sweet-talking your way to the top. Humility is you putting yourself aside to help others get ahead. Humility is not being obsessed with getting your way and your advantages. Humility is you forgetting yourselves to help a neighbor in need.

But the problem still exists, doesn’t it? Today, it is apparent that we each have pride, and it is essential for us to be humble like Christ. But if we can’t talk about humility or be humble through our strength, how shall we arrive at humility?

Humility, my friends, is a divine gift. Humility is in Christ, who is for you. Humility is bestowed and worked in you as your pride is crucified unto Christ – daily. You see, when you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, you will want to begin each day serving and uplifting that reflection you see staring right back at you.  However, that is pride.  You must remember that you have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer your pride that lives, but it is Christ who lives in you by faith. The life that you live is not on the basis of your pride but in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.

And so, remembering your baptisms, you do not live unto yourself, but you make the sign of the cross upon your head and your heart remembering that you belong to Christ who humbled you out of your pride when He went to the cross. And the Holy Spirit creates in you a clean heart and renews a humble spirit within you through the Gospel.  

Now, perhaps, the most practical and visible way in which humility is a divine gift to you is found right here in the Divine Service every single week. 

Consider the very beginning of our Divine Services. We stand together shoulder to shoulder and confess that we have sinned with our pride in not loving God and not serving our neighbor.  That is right; in confession, at the beginning of the church service, we boldly state that we have been turned inward in our thoughts, words, and deeds. And then, the most remarkable thing happens, the old Adam, along with pride, is killed by the proclamation of forgiveness and the strengthening of our faith.

And there is more! The whole Divine Service turns us away from ourselves to Christ so that we might know that this Christian faith is not about you and me but about the Christ who is for you and me.  And at the end, our closing prayer is a prayer that the Lord would strengthen our faith outward to Christ, as well as strengthening our love outward to our neighbor through the Holy Sacrament. 

So, it could be properly stated that the Divine Service turns us inside ==> out, from pride to humility because of Jesus. 

If you think about it, when we have Christ, which we do, we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Therefore, we need not boast in ourselves. We need not be consumed with our spiritual resumes. We need not climb ladders of power. We need not worry about earning brownie points from the world of popular opinion. We need not look down on others, trying to convince ourselves that we are better. We need not wave our credentials around as if we are something special.  But instead, all of this can be torn up and thrown into the trash – along with everything else our pride takes credit for – because we have Christ and Christ has us.

Baptized Saints, your pride is dead in Christ, and Christ bestows upon you humility. Let this mind be in you, which you have in Christ Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Tim Keller, “The Advent of Humility: Jesus is the reason to stop concentrating on ourselves,” PM Notes, (accessed April 4th of 2020). 
[2] Ibid.
[3] This thought is taken from C.S. Lewis.

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