Humility, Sacrifice, and the Example of Christ
Reflecting on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Two Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 27:7-14
Old Testament: Judges 7:12-22
Epistle: Philippians 2:12-18
Holy God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring healing to all wounds, make whole all that is broken, speak truth to all illusion, and shed light in every darkness, that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me (Philippians 2:12-18).
Humility and sacrifice are not default human dispositions.
Yet, in Philippians Paul speaks of the importance of humility and sacrifice. In 2:12-18, he encourages believers to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (verse 12). The work of the church should be completed with humility and selflessness. Paul’s message is that believers should strive to emulate the example of Christ and to serve one another in love and obedience. Although we are all imperfect, we can still strive to be humble and selfless in our actions.
Humility and sacrifice are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Humility is a disposition of mind in which we understand who we truly are, not over-inflating our importance and abilities. Selflessness is a willingness to put our needs on hold for the sake of the needs of others. We give up our own desires in order to serve our neighbors. This distinction is important because many of us might be inclined to view humility and sacrifice as negative ideals. These ideals can sometimes be perceived as a state of unimportance and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. However, this is not what Paul is advocating in his letter. Instead, he is telling us to strive for a healthy state of humility and sacrifice that is completely different from feelings of low self-esteem or a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities.
In order to gain a greater understanding of humility and sacrifice, we look to the example of Jesus Christ whom Paul has already put forward to the church in Philippi. Christ’s actions and choices can be used as a guide to help us better understand and apply humility and sacrifice to our own lives. Humility and sacrifice are ideals that can often be difficult to apply. As imperfect human beings, it can be hard to know how to balance humility and sacrifice with self-esteem and confidence. When we look to Christ as our example, we see that humility and sacrifice are healthy states that require selflessness, self-improvement, and service to others.
To be a Christian is to be like Christ in all things.
PRAYER: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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