Last time I posed the question: Does Scripture calls us to think of others as being “more valuable” than ourselves as most translations of Philipians 2:3 seem to imply? I showed last time that the original language is somewhat ambiguous, so to get a clear answer, we’ll have to look deeper.
What Would Jesus Do?
Let’s take a look at Jesus’ life. Did he live out his life in the first way of living that I mentioned last time (devaluing himself to benefit others) or in the second way (valuing himself highly while honoring and submitting to others)?
It’s one of those questions that becomes silly as soon as you ask it. It could not be more abundantly clear that Jesus valued himself very highly! He called himself the Son of God, the Messiah, the way, the truth, and the life. Did Jesus go around telling everybody, “Hey, don’t mind me, I’m nobody special”? No! He considered himself to be of great value, and was so confident of his value that it enabled him to serve others, considering others as of higher rank than himself.
Take a look at John 13. In the culture of Jesus’ day, rank was very important. At a gathering in a household, it was the responsibility of the servant – the one of the lowest rank – to wash the feet of the guests. But at the Last Supper, this is what it says Jesus did:
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet.” (John 13:3-5)
Jesus’ consciousness of his value before God enabled him to lay aside his rank (knowing that losing his rank could not diminish his value) and ‘consider others as of higher rank than himself.’
What about us?
Ok, so that’s Jesus. But are we called to live the same way? After all, it’s clear that Jesus is of great value: He’s the Son of God. But we’re not all Messiah’s. Can Jesus’ humility really be a model for our own if we’re just “normal” people?
Amazingly, Paul answers this very question just a few verses later in Philippians 2: He tells us, yes indeed, Jesus’ standard of humility should be exactly our standard of humility!:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7)
Our calling then is to treat other people as if they are of higher rank or authority than us, submitting to them and honoring them, while also knowing that we are “one in Christ” with them, co-equal sharers in the promises and the hope that Christ has given us.
We see this all over Scripture. We’re called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). We are called to “serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13). We are told to willingly take the seat of lesser honor at the table (Luke 14:7-11). But we are also to value ourselves highly (Colossians 3:12) and to willingly accept whatever honor is given us (luke 14:7-11).
It is freeing to know that the ability to serve others doesn’t come from self-hatred, but from knowing our value in the eyes of God.