How can one be humble 1

Orient yourselves to Jesus Christ!

There are scriptures that, even after reading a lot, radiate strength and awaken a new willingness to love, that give courage to strive for more perfection, even if it is not easy, and that adjust the standards when we are hurt or dulled are that we almost only see ourselves. The letter of Paul to the Philippians belongs to these texts, and especially the beginning of the second chapter.

In the New Testament translation from hope for all the excerpt from Paul's letter that we want to consider (Phil. 2: 1-11) reads as follows:

    1. Do you help and encourage one another as Christians? Are you ready for loving comfort? Do you feel something of the fellowship that the Holy Spirit creates? Are you united by warm and compassionate love?
    2. I would be very happy about that. But my joy is perfect when you have the same attitude in which one love remains connected to one another and holds tightly together.
    3. Neither envy nor blind ambition should determine your actions. On the contrary, think little of yourself and respect others more than yourself.
    4. Do not always think of yourself first, but also take care of others.
    5. Orientate yourself to Jesus Christ:
    6. Although he was equal to God in everything and had a share in God's rule, he did not insist on his privileges.
    7. No, he renounced it and became lawless like a slave. He was born like any other person and lived as a person among us humans.
    8. He humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death, yes, to the shameful death on the cross.
    9. That is why God has gloriously raised him up to himself and given him the name that is above all names.
    10. Everyone will bow to Jesus one day: all powers in heaven, all people on earth and everyone in the realm of the dead.
    11. And everyone without exception should confess to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord!
    (for comparison, Luther translation :)
    1 If there is an admonition in Christ with you, there is consolation of love, there is communion of the spirit, there is heartfelt love and mercy, 2 then my joy is made perfect by the fact that you are of one mind, have equal love, are of one accord and are in harmony. 3 Do nothing out of self-interest or for the sake of vain honor, but humbly respect each other more than himself, 4 and each one does not look to his own, but also to what serves the other. 5 Let everyone be minded as Jesus Christ was. 6 He who was in divine form did not consider it a robbery to be equal to God, 7 but emptied himself and assumed the form of a servant, was like men and was known in appearance as man. 8 He humbled himself and was obedient to death, even to death on the cross. 9 Therefore God also exalted him and gave him the name that is above all names, 10 that in the name of Jesus all those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth should bow down on their knees, 11 and profess every tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the Father.

hope for all tries to render the text as realistic as possible and to adapt it to our personal situation, and therefore takes certain liberties in interpreting the original text. The more precise translation by Martin Luther reproduced afterwards shows where there are deviations and gives us information on how this freedom was used. Likewise, when we read other scriptures, we can make them more effective for our own lives if we vary them so that they speak to our personal situation.

To interpret the Bible correctly means to fill the text with love in order to make it fully effective, in order to bring out its inner strength to its fullest advantage. We loosen up the text linguistically (like fertile soil) and put our questions and our hearts into it (like seeds). God's Spirit transforms our toil and we get much out of it. When we read, hear or read a sermon in the Bible (e.g. also this commentary), it makes sense to pay attention to:

  • What resonates in us?
  • Why are these appropriate remarks, observations, advice? Or is what you read or hear naive, unreal?
  • What are the difficulties of doing, practicing, perfecting it?
  • What things, circumstances, people or actions increase our strength and motivation to be like this?
  • What examples can I find in my life or that of those close to me that illustrate what has been said? who can be a role model for me to get ahead?
  • How far am I willing to go in the recommended direction? What's stopping me from doing whole thing?
Such questions can also be the beginning of a joint conversation about what has been read or heard.

The first verse deals with questions that not only Paul can ask, but everyone who comes as a guest into a Christian community who wants to know whether God's spirit is also at work behind the Christian forms. Christian forms are not an end in themselves, otherwise they degenerate into a pseudo-holiness that repels others. Rather, the goal of all Christian forms is to become more like Jesus Christ, to become more loving, more able to put one's own wishes in the background and to perceive and take into account the needs of others in God's way.

Let's set us We can perhaps say yes to a certain extent to the questions that Paul brings up here. Paul also presupposes this as given, as can be seen from the comparison with the Luther translation. But a full yes will be difficult for us if we are honest. We notice how little we live up to God's demands for flawless love. These questions remain breathtaking because they ask so much of us.

If we are open to God, the thoughts of Paul rub off on us: the desire to become completely like that, in so far as we are not like that, is strengthened while reading. So these questions become challenges for us, to deepen this attitude, to learn to become more perfect, to get ready for new, perhaps difficult steps ...


In the second verse, Paul shows a way to fill in the loopholes the questions have exposed. Being the same and perfect in attitude, different in ability, understanding, action, knowledge, tasks - this is how cohesion is best, and we complement one another without wearing out our energy in grueling conflicts. In this way we can comfort, heal, and exhort where necessary, and cordiality and community grow.

It is also interesting how Paul motivates: 'make my joy complete!' Being a Christian is not a matter of morality, but above all the desire to make God and people happy! Because when we feel that we have made someone happy, it strengthens and invigorates us and gives us new strength to act. Moral appeals, on the other hand, exhaust us and gradually make us dull and inaccessible. God sometimes uses moral admonitions as warning signals; but his strength lies not in morality, but in the joy with which we act and which we give him and others.


In verse three Paul addresses a few more specific things: Envy (or self-interest, depending on the translation) makes you sick, rude and mean, and destroys your own joy and that of others. Ambition makes blind, ambition makes hollow (vain), and both destroy the quality of the community. Depending on how one translates, God's Spirit emphasizes sometimes this, sometimes that aspect of destructive attitudes. Likewise, in some other Bible verses, for us personally, a variation of what the writer originally meant may be that which God's spirit brings to speech in our hearts and provides with effective power. So it happens that the same book effectively conveys God's power and wisdom to countless people, no matter how different they and their problems were and are.

`` Think little of yourself '' is the antidote to envy (the divisive pleading for the right to equal property, even if only in one's own heart) and ambition (the divisive demand for the right to more recognition, if only perhaps only in your own heart). It describes the humility, the attitude that Jesus had: do not praise his greatness (deity), not insist on his right (dominion over people), although this would have been his. To be humble does not mean to let oneself be used as a doormat, nor to downplay one's knowledge or skills. But it means, regardless of your size (or smallness), to be aware of your dependence on God, who is more responsible than we are for the extent of our abilities, and who can quickly deprive us of everything through misfortune, illness or death. So our ability or knowledge does not make us as humans better than others. If we overlook this, we treat what was God's gift to us like a robbery (v. 6) that we have to secure and defend. So we lose our freedom and the community we belong to is poisoned.

You can also say that you are humble where nothing can humiliate you. That is a very clear and purposeful yardstick against which we can test ourselves. Without humility, we feel inferior where we have weaknesses, we are hurt when we are attacked, and we become arrogant where we have strengths. As we develop humility, these forces lose their point of attack because we simply manage what we have of God and do not worry about what we do not have. This is how we effectively serve God, ourselves, and the people around us.


Then it goes without saying what Paul recommends to us in verse four: to keep an eye on what is our own as well as the cause of the other. Because then it is important for us as administrators of God's wealth to do what is best for God, and what serves us has the same weight as what serves others. And we can rely on God that these administrative services are worthwhile for us: he continually renews in us the strength and love that we need for this service - it is in his own interest, after all.

Therefore, we excuse others where we excuse ourselves. We are lenient to them where we are lenient to each other. We demand that which bothers us in others. We accept our own weaknesses and difficulties as well as those of others. We learn from what we suffer how others feel when they are suffering. We help others as we are helped, and we make no difference whether someone deserves it or not. In this way we encourage fellowship with one another through love, and we come to the point where others we meet experience a positive answer to the questions asked at the beginning.


In verse 5, Paul makes the basic recommendation directly:

  • Orient yourselves to Jesus Christ!

    Luther writes even more challengingly:

  • Let everyone be minded as Jesus Christ was!

    So: become like Jesus! Take him as an example! Then you will never lack love and you will overcome all the ordeal in which a community of people can be put.

    The whole New Testament is basically a guide to overcoming. To overcome everything that hinders a genuine, loving life out of the power that the love of God and our responsive love for God evoke (cf. Rom. 8).

    The following verses outline the life that Jesus led - challenged by God to the last, lovingly let go of everything, endured everything without losing his love, magnificently confirmed by God that he did the right thing, even though it looked like a path of failure . And God also promises us a lot if we persevere and overcome (Rev. 2: 7,11,17,26; 3: 5,12,21; 21: 7) - in addition to all that we love and joy from him get it now, so that we even have the strength to persevere.


    Orient yourselves to Jesus Christ!

    • Perhaps we need to get to know Jesus better before we can judge whether life with and for him is worth the effort. And so that we know in which direction God wants to change us.
    • How far do I want to be challenged by God? The will must come from us; from him comes the strength.
    • Being a Christian is the active will to allow oneself to be shaped and changed by God, to allow oneself to be reforged according to the example of Jesus. How far do I want this?
    • God's blessing is that we allow ourselves to be transformed by him and thus have a future. Love has no limits; it never stops (1 Cor. 13). When we love, we have eternal, immortal life.
    • Jesus does not ask us to follow blindly. On the contrary, he expects (Luke 14: 28-35) that we first take stock, compare costs and value. Because it does not benefit from the fact that we start with wrong ideas and then throw everything away because our wrong expectations have been disappointed. But when we have recognized what life with God is worth, we put all our commitment into it, and the it is what God is looking for in us: faith and love with all my heart.

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    my home page (http://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~neum) Arnold Neumaier ([email protected])