Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of
others as better than yourselves (v.3).
The story is told of a man who was so humble
that his city council decided to honor him with a
medallion for his humility. A week after the award
ceremony, the award had to be withdrawn. Much to
the embarrassment of the council, the man had brashly
worn the medallion everywhere he went. This humorous
story reminds me of what mystery writer Helen Nielsen
once wrote: “Humility is like underwear, essential, but
indecent if it shows.” According to Bible teacher John
Stott, humility is “the rarest and fairest of all Christian
virtues.” It’s also the chief Christian virtue because it’s the
exact opposite of the worst of sins—pride.
So, is true humility possible? What does it look like?
In Philippians 2, Paul gives us a portrait of the humble
person. He presents four attitudes that help us understand
true humility—two negatives to avoid and two positives
to follow. Humble people . . .
• are not selfish (v.3). They do “nothing out of selfish
ambition” (v.3 NIV). They aren’t self-centered.
• do not “try to impress others” (v.3). They do “nothing
out of vain conceit” (v.3 NIV). They don’t seek glory for
• are always “thinking of others as better than
[themselves]” (v.3). They see the great value in others.
• don’t “look out only for [their] own interests, but take
an interest in others, too” (v.4). They balance the needs
of others with their own needs.
To be humble, we need to move away from “self” to “others”—pursuing
lowliness (v.3) and helpfulness (v.4). Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe
succinctly summed it up: “The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of
himself; he simply does not think of himself at all!”
How did Jesus demonstrate His humility as revealed in Philippians 2:5?
How would you grade yourself on how well you’re avoiding selfish
ambition and vainglory, while also thinking of others positively and
putting their needs before your own? What needs to change?