Philippians is a book that shows the great depths of Christ’s humility. Christ is the one who has the most reason to be proud, but instead he humbled himself more than any other. He came down to us from heaven, emptying himself and taking the form of a servant. Not only did he come to serve, but he came to die for the people he came to save.
Paul writes to the church urging us to follow Christ in this regard. He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Then what follows it he powerful description of Christ’s humility.
But Christ does not end in a lowly position. His end is not the cross. He has been raised up and at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is quoted from the book of Isaiah, here in reference to Jesus and in Isaiah as a reference to God. Paul is making the case that it is right to worship Christ, to lift up his name. He is the Son of God.
In sight of this, how can we not be humble? God came to us, died for us, saved us, loves us. This is not something God had to do, but something he chose to do in his great mercy. We cannot live in light of this with conceit or pride. We ought to live like Christ, being like servants. If we are to make a name for anyone, it should be the name of Christ. Like John the Baptist our pursuit is to decrease so that Christ may increase (John 3).
We should put great effort and energy into spreading the name of Christ, all for the glory of God. Our work should be to shift focus away from ourselves and onto the one who has saved us.
I read this quote a while back and I think it is fitting. It is about orchestras and the way in which the best musicians come together not to bring attention to themselves, but to come together and make something greater than themselves. It’s from an article The Believer, which I’ve slightly edited, referring to the New York Philharmonic:
They were the top in their school and then the top at Juilliard and now they’re playing second cello. And the humility is as high as the musicianship. Let’s say you’re playing a Beethoven piece in a room where the same piece was played one hundred years ago. They’re sitting in the same chairs, wearing the same shoes and suits, playing instruments that are one hundred years old, playing the same sounds with the best conductor of their time, who is standing under photos of twenty of the greatest conductors. And when the music started playing, I had this idea that the music was coming through this little channel—for lack of a better word—for years and years. Musicians come and go and they’re stewards of the music for a brief period of time. But once the music plays—it’s really between Beethoven and the listener at that point. The musicians are there to get their … hands off of it. All that training! Thousands of hours! Sight-reading every day! All so they can get … out of the way because nobody gives a crap about them at all. The less you notice them, the better it sounds. I mean, it was the highest level of art in music that I’d ever seen, and it was performed by people who had spent countless hours of work just to be invisible.
We may know the name of an orchestra or even the name of the conductor. But can we name all the musicians whose work comes together to make something beautiful? That is how it should be in the church. We hope the church has made itself known for its great work and witness in this world, and certainly we hope the conductor, Christ, is known the world over. But our aim, as a second cello, should not be to draw attention to ourselves.
We are stewards of the gospel, stewards to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has entrusted us a great work to do for his kingdom. We ought to devote such countless hours to make Christ visible and ourselves invisible–at least compared to Christ. That is humility. May he be seen by what we do. May Christ’s name receive all glory for our labors. May Jesus Christ receive all praise.