We have been looking at the way God wants man to live, as demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ, and that is the example we need to follow. We want to consider a little more about His humility.
We have seen how Jesus identified Himself totally with man. He was not ashamed to be a man. The Bible says He is not ashamed to call us His brothers. Sometimes we feel superior to other human beings; we feel we are more educated or we belong to a higher class of society. All this is because of the perverted pride that has infected us ever since Adam sinned. Jesus came to demonstrate that essentially all human beings are equal, irrespective of race, family, education, intelligence, culture, position in life, or whatever. He came and became one with the least and the lowest in the social level in His day, in Israel. He came below everybody because that is the only way He could be the servant of everybody. You cannot be the servant of another if you are not willing to go underneath him. If you want to lift somebody up, you must go beneath him. That is how Jesus came.
Now the Holy Spirit has come to make our mind like Christ’s. In other words, to make our way of thinking exactly like Christ. This is not a theory. This is not something we just talk about over a radio program or in a Church or in an article like this. It is supposed to become a reality in our life, that in our mind, we do not any longer consider ourselves superior to any other human being, whatever his religion, race or anything may be. Only then we can say that the humility of Christ has begun to work in our thoughts.
If I were to ask you a question on what are the thoughts you think about yourself when you are all by yourself, what would be your response? You think of yourself, perhaps, as a good-looking person, or very clever, or fortunate to be born in a rich family, or other such thoughts. There you can assess how much of your thoughts are like Christ and how much you think like the devil. If you are comparing yourself with others, and considering yourself superior, those are exactly the kind of thoughts that went through the mind of Lucifer before he became the devil. The Bible says that we must regard others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), and Paul goes on to speak in that passage about Jesus Christ being our example. Paul once said, in Ephesians 3:8, that he was the very least of all the saints. Paul had been so gripped by the humility of Christ that, as he thought about himself, he saw himself as the absolute lowest among all the believers.
There is no contradiction between this and Paul calling the Corinthians believers carnal. Paul didn’t consider himself carnal. The Bible does not tell us to consider other people better than ourselves. That would be impossible. Who was the humblest man that walked on the earth? You know the answer. It was Jesus Christ. He was the humblest person that walked on the earth. Now let us consider this question. Did Jesus consider other people better than Himself? How could He do that? He was the purest, the holiest. He knew Judas Iscariot was a devil. He didn’t consider other people better than Himself. Humility does not mean considering other people better than ourselves, because then we have to believe a lie.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, ‘You are carnal, you are babies,’ did he consider the Corinthians better than himself? No. Some people have this false humility where they struggle and try to consider other people better than themselves. It is a futile effort. The Bible doesn’t t ask you to do that. The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 to consider others more important than you. That is different.
Jesus always considered others more important. That is why we see Him taking a bucket of water, and washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. It was the job done only by servants in those days. If you visited a wealthy home, in those days, they usually they had slaves at home. A slave is someone who is bought, one who did not get any wages. Slaves were lower than servants. When a guest came to visit a home, it was the slave’s duty to take a basin of water, remove the guest’s sandals, and wash the dust from their feet. Whenever there was a dinner, there would always be a basin of water near the door.
When Jesus and the disciples came to this Last Supper, there was no host there. They only had an empty room for their use. But the basin of water was kept at the door as usual. Now the question was who was going to do the job of washing the people’s feet? Each disciple must have thought, ‘Well, I am not going to do that.’ Peter may have thought, ‘Well, I am going to be the leader after Jesus goes away, how I can do such a thing?’ And Matthew may have thought, ‘Well, I am an educated accountant; I can’t go washing the feet of these disciples.’ Each of the disciples may have thought of how they were superior to the others in some way, and therefore they couldn’t possibly do a slave’s job. It is better it is not done.
Then Jesus took up that basin of water and began to wash their feet. Why? Because He said, ‘Well, you are all more important than me.’ They were certainly not more spiritual than Him, and He didn’t think so. Yet He treated them more important. He genuinely considered Himself less important. It was not an act, merely put on to show that He was humble. There can be people who act humble, who do things just to show that they are humble servants. That is hypocrisy. God hates it. Jesus was genuine. He really took that place of being nothing before His Heavenly Father.
And this is what humility really is: to take the place of being absolutely nothing before God. ‘Lord, I am nothing, everything that I am, you have made me.’ If you are intelligent, who made you intelligent? God did. There are so many children born into this world that are retarded. You could have been born like that. You could have been born with a defective brain, or a defective body, or some congenital disease, or polio like many other children born into this world. What would you be then? It really is proper for us to be thoroughly humble when we think of our condition: ‘Lord, what do I have, which I have not received?’ Only a foolish man is proud.
Jesus not only took that place of a servant. But we also read that He went still further. What is lower than a slave? We would say nothing is lower than a slave; that is the lowest place. No, a criminal, a murderer would be considered even lower than a slave. We read that Jesus was crucified just like a criminal. You know, this crucifixion – killing people on the cross was something that the Romans reserved for the worst criminals in Palestine. Ordinary criminals were not crucified. But the worst, the absolutely incorrigible, worst criminals, they would kill them; kill them with this terrible process of crucifixion where they suffer and die over a period of many hours. Jesus humbled Himself to die on a cross as a criminal. The Bible says in Isaiah that He was numbered with the transgressors. He was counted among the criminals. Why? Because that was His Father’s will, He accepted it. He obeyed.
It is marvellous to see the humility of Jesus right from the time He was a little child. You know, we read in the Bible, in Luke’s Gospel, that Jesus came to Nazareth, and continued in subjection to Joseph and Mary (Lk. 2:51), and that went on for 30 years. Were Joseph and Mary perfect? – Far from it. They were no better than any couple today. Think of an average Christian home today where husband and wife fight with each other at least once in a while. Joseph and Mary were like that. They were not perfect people who never sinned. There is nobody like that. They were sinners. They were imperfect. They did not know everything. And in their home lived Jesus, who was sinless, who was perfect, and who never did anything wrong. So who should submit to whom? One would think Joseph and Mary should submit to Jesus, right? We would think that the ones who are imperfect (Joseph and Mary) should submit to the one who is perfect (Jesus).
But it wasn’t like that. Jesus submitted to an imperfect foster father and mother. We know it is not easy for us to submit to those who are inferior to us. Can you submit to somebody who is inferior to you? But if you are genuinely humble, you will have no problem. You would submit to anybody because you would realise you are nothing. Humility is the secret. We will have no problem with anyone when we are humble.
Jesus was quite happy to be a carpenter. When He went out to ministry, He never took any title. He never called Himself Reverend Jesus or any such thing. He never wanted any position or title or anything that would exalt Him above the common people whom He came to serve. He became like His brothers in all things. When they wanted to make Him a King, He ran away. He never did anything to get honour from men. If He healed a sick person, He would tell that sick person not to tell anyone. Do you see His humility? He wanted all the glory to be given to the Father. He never wanted to draw anybody to Himself; His healings were not publicity stunts to draw attention to Himself.
What a beautiful picture we have of what man is supposed to be. Think of what will happen if the world became full of people like this? But you can make a beginning in your life now.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.