Summary: Jesus teaches us that godly humility comes from loving God with all of our heart and mind and strength as well as loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
LIVING A HUMBLED LIFE
Text: Philipians 2:1-11
Years ago popular music artist Carly Simon wrote a song entitled, "You’re So Vain" during the 70,s. I once heard it said that she wrote that song about Warren Beatty because of the way that he thought that he was God’s gift to women. Some of the lyrics to that song go like this: "You’re so vain, you probably think this song’s about you."
In Biblical perspective, according to Paul, vanity such as that comes from when someone thinks more highly of himself/herself than he ought to think (Romans 12:3). James 4:6 says "... God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (NIV). That is not to say that pride in its original context is a bad thing. God opposes the kind of pride that anyone uses to elevate his/her self-importance while slighting others and their importance. Racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism, denominationalism, subordination due to social class, intellectual conceit, success, materialism are all forms of pride. Egotism is at the root of all of them.
Philipians 2:1-11 is not about nurturing the ego like the world tells that we ought to do. No, Philipians 2:1-11 is about living a life that is humble. The world teaches that humility is for the weak. Jesus’ life here on earth, during the days of His earthly ministry, teaches us that humility is for the strong. Jesus teaches that God-willed pride does not come from what we do for ourselves. Jesus teaches us that godly humility comes from loving God with all of our heart and mind and strength as well as loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Ambition is selfish when it is self-centered. The world is full of people who are trying to make a name for themselves. During the days of World War II, there was a fighter pilot who was trying to make a name for himself. His name was Greg Boyington. He was trying to beat the record of a World War I renown pilot whose name was Edward Vernon Rickenbacker. (Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Baa Baa Black Sheep. New York: Bantam Books Inc., 1977, p. 215). Rickenbacker had a record of shooting down twenty-two planes and four observation balloons. (Robert S. Phillips ed. Funk And Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Volume 20. "Rickenbacker. Edward Vernon". New York: Funk and Wagnalls Inc., 1979, p. 301). It was the goal of the late Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington of the United States Marine Corps to beat Rickenbacker’s record. In his autobigography, Boyington wrote, " … most of the things for which I had been given credit for bravery were nothing but daredevil stunts. I was trying to build up my own ego, trying to imitate the bravery of people I had read about or had been told about in the years gone by". (Boyington, Baa Baa Black Sheep, p. 284).
Although Boyington accomplished his goal, it proved to be costly because once he had completed that goal, he wound up as a prisoner of war in a Japanese POW camp. If Boyington’s story were to have had a moral, then I am sure that the moral would have been that some of our goals in life cost more than they are worth.
Ambition is costly when it hurts us as well as those around us. In Philipians 2:1-4, Paul addresses the problem of selfish ambition. Later in Philipians 4:2-3 we see that Paul admonishes two ladies who were at odds with each other. It seems that Philipians 2:1-4 and Philipians 4:2-3 were designed to address the problem of selfish ambition. It was as if Paul were saying to the those two ladies Euodia and Syntyche as well as the rest of the community that ambition is costly when it hinders the fellowship that we are supposed to strive for in the body of Christ.
From 1986 -1999, Lou Holtz (now the Head Coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks as of 1999) became the head coach for Notre Dame. It was unfortunate that morale was low due to football seasons that were not so successful. Holtz brought the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame back up in morale so that eventually they were a top ranking team once again. One of the methods that he used to get team morale back up to the standard that was needed was to have his players wear shirts that said "TEAM" in big letters and "ME" in small letters. One of his linebackers at the time (Wes Pritchett) was a little skeptical of this idea at first but later admitted that the message eventually "got through" to the team. "In sports, teamwork is a key ingredient". ([paraphrased and quoted from the following resource:] William P. Barker ed. Tarbell’s Teahcer’s Guide. 86th Annual Volume. Elgin: David C. Cook Publishing Co. 1990, pp. 198 - 199).