Counting others.

Every time I tell our four-year-old son “I’m proud of you, son,” he is quick to remind me, “No, Daddy. Pride is bad.” True, son. So if I’m thinking about it I instead said, “Son, I’m really happy with you. You please me.” It seems our kids need to know we are happy to be called their parents. God the Father was happy to say the same of His Son (Matthew 3:17).

Our son is learning about humility. He’s getting the concepts down, and like all of us, learning in real-time the pitfalls of our self-centered pride. Brings to mind some of the things preached this Sunday in our church worship gatherings:

“You don’t need to try to be humble. Just be honest with who you are in light of who God is. Stop pretending, and trying to cover up who you are before others… Be honest before God.”
—Joel Dombrow, preaching on Philippians 2:1-11, Joy From Humility (Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011)

If we do that, we will then consider God as awesome, certainly more than ourselves. I was moved as I sat there asking God to do this in me.

Joel continued: “The humble person is someone who considers others as better than their self.” Not that we have to think that others are better than us, but that we place their needs before our own. We treat them as if they are better and more deserving than us. We must think about them more than us. It is putting others first.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Paul writes, Philippians 2:3-4)

How do we get this way? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did this? It’s not my job (or yours) to make sure others do this; we are responsible of our own attitudes, for while we cannot choose what happens to us, we must choose how we respond to life.

First, let’s start with what we count. We count our own score; essentially, we are prone to count ourselves, and to be miffed when others do not count us. (Ever get upset with a waiter or waitress for not refilling your water in a timely way? Don’t forget about me! I’ll show them when it’s time to leave a tip! …) When we consider this command in verse three, we see how our relationships cannot thrive under rivalry or conceit. It’s not a game, and keeping score is exhausting. C.S. Lewis writes:

“Pride is essentially competitive … is competitive by its very nature. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer; or cleverer; or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Even when we know this, it is not enough to change our lives. We can be informed, but we must be transformed. The rest of our text in Philippians 2:1-11 shows us the way:

[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
—Philippians 2:5-11, ESV

The genius in the revealed greatness of Jesus is His radical humility. He showed His greatness and glory by taking the lowest place, through serving us, and dying a sinner’s (and criminal’s) death on a cross. We cannot replicate His atoning sacrifice, but shall walk in His steps as one’s who have given up trying to prove ourselves.

The description above in Philippians is accurately borrowed from Isaiah 45, written many centuries before Jesus came on the scene as a Man:

22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
23By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
—Isaiah 45:22-23, NIV

This description is about God; Philippians is written about Jesus. Now we see the connection between the glorious God and the humble Creator. They are One. Always deserving honor, He took the humble route. If anyone deserved to assert self, it was Him. Instead He considered others as more valuable than self. The irony cannot be lost on us. And our whole lives we will either humble ourselves or in the end be humiliated. When we humble ourselves no one can possibly humiliate us.

These passages also teach us a deeper true: one day, when Jesus shows up in all of His glory, everyone will bow down to worship Him. No exceptions.

In the meantime, the pathway to humility follows the One who paved the way. This truth shall not only change how we think; it must change who we are. Jesus pleased the Father through His service and sacrifice (who became proud of His Son — only God can boast and be proud like that in a right way), and has been given the Name that is above all names. Amazing. True. Forever we will learn what this means.

Today, we get to choose, who will we count. Ourselves? Others? God and others?

How are we doing today? Are we counting others? Are we banking on God to be great? Let’s count on it.

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