If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:1-5, NIV)
I heard an amusing story during my childhood about a great and very wise rabbi who became famous and popular in his town because of his immense wisdom and knowledge. His popularity grew more and more. In fact, people were coming to him for counsel and wisdom. What made him popular was that, not only did he learn and speak ancient virtues and teachings, but he practiced them also. He practiced goodness, kindness, patience, honesty, generosity, perseverance, peace. But what was lacking from him was to practice humility, and he was aware of it. His popularity hindered him to become humble. What he knew about Humility was to become a servant yet how can he become a servant if all the people were treating him well.
So, he thought of a plan in order for him to practice this virtue of Humility. He called up his own servant and devised the plan. He said, “Servant, starting today, we exchange places. From now on, you’ll become the rabbi and I’ll become your servant. You’ll disguise yourself just the way I look and I’ll disguise myself just the same as you look.” The servant wondered and asked, “Why this matter, O Wise Master Rabbi?” The rabbi answered, “Just follow my instructions.” The servant obeyed believing the wisdom of his master behind it.
Soon enough, the two exchanged places. The rabbi thought to himself, “Now, I look like a servant, I can practice this Humility. If no one recognizes me when we go out, then my plan is a good success.” Outside of his place, a lot of people were already waiting for the rabbi for his teachings and wisdom. So, as soon as both of them went out, the crowd gathered to the servant who disguised as a rabbi and no one paid attention to the rabbi who disguised himself as a servant. The rabbi was glad. “Yes! My plan is working. No one recognizes me as the rabbi…I’m now practicing Humility,” the rabbi said to himself as he stood silently behind his rabbi-disguised servant.
Then one by one, the crowd inquired for the counsel of the rabbi. Then one shouted, “Rabbi! Rabbi!” The rabbi-disguised servant replied, “Yes, my countryman,” as he maintained his composure as the wise rabbi. The citizen continued, “Great and wise rabbi, I find this question to be asked as difficult and hard because I asked a lot of people about this but no one from them can give me the clear answer, and I for one also. I believe you are the only one who can give me the plain answer because of your immense wisdom and knowledge.” “What is then your question,” the rabbi-disguised servant asked who was then beginning to perspire. “My question is this: What is the meaning of life?” the citizen asked. Then the rabbi-disguised servant replied as he inhaled for a deep breath, “Oh! Your question is too easy…that even my servant standing behind me knows the answer.”
I think the moral lesson of this amusing story is that you cannot disguise humility. Have you met a humble person? How would you know that this person is humble? According to Craig A. Smith that the problem with humility is that you cannot tell anyone that you have it. Being humble is like having those qualities intertwined together and making as one. It’s quite hard to distinguish a humble person. We can only observe or notice his humble qualities as we study him carefully.
Apostle Paul made a statement in his letter to the Philippians to let them practice Humility.
As what we have observed in his letter, Paul mentions of having Joy in his relationship with the believers in Philippi. He mentioned having Joy in his prayers for them (Phil. 1:3) and experiencing Joy as he believes that they are praying for him (Phil. 1:18-19). To add to these, he mentions of making his “joy complete” by urging them to be united (Phil. 2:1-2). Some Bible commentators said that the setting of Philippi is somewhat a progressing city where believers have different professions and careers. With their differences, sometimes they have different opinions and perspectives in doing church. Paul is concerned about their condition. They have worship and fellowship but in organizing church, they have different ways. Paul has just the same feeling and longing of a parent who is working abroad earning money for his family who is concerned of his children fighting one another, and the only motivation for this parent to keep on working is the harmony and unity in his family. Paul might had the same feeling and longing of a boss who is going out of town looking for business expansions where he just heard that his employees left in the office are gossiping one another and couldn’t get along, and the only motivation for him to keep going on is harmony and unity in his office. Paul is in the same situation where he is imprisoned in a far away place and the only way to make his joy complete is the harmony and unity among the believers in Philippi.
We all know that if there’s unity, there’s a good, nice, delightful feeling beyond we can describe. Psalm 133 suitably expresses it: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Meaning, GOD promotes unity among His people and He gladly bestows His blessing to those who prioritize it. We can see also an image of unity in the famous “flying V” formation of Geese migration. Why do they fly like this? Two observations: one is that Geese can conserve energy which as they fly in longer distances, they couldn’t get tired, and secondly is that the V formation can assist them in proper communication and coordination which they could alternate immediately in leading the group and detecting any wrong as they fly together towards longer distances. Nowadays, combat aircrafts are adapting this kind of maneuver.
Apostle Paul knew that the fellowship of the Philippians could last longer as long as they are united, “by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose (Phil. 2:2), and GOD’s blessing will be upon them. This feat can only be achieved through Humility practiced among themselves individually.
It takes Will power to be humble! (to be continued…)