"Doing nothing from party-spirit or vain-glory, but in humility esteeming others as excelling yourselves." — Philippians 2:3, Diaglott.
LOWLINESS of mind, humility, is a mental quality which enables its possessor to look up with appreciation, not only to God, but also to earthly beings, recognizing their good qualities. The Apostle urges that this lowliness of mind should be in all of God's people; this fact proves it to be a quality that demands careful cultivation.
Not all of the Lord's people are lowly in mind. Some of them think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Some of them may be proud of having the Truth or of their ability to serve the Truth. Any such pride is very objectionable in the sight of the Lord, and indicates that its possessor has a very small mind; for, with a proper estimate of matters, the best of us can see that we have nothing of which to be proud, nothing of which to boast. If we have received anything of the Lord, we should boast of our receipts, instead of glorying in something as if we had attained it of ourselves.
So the Lord's people should spend earnest effort to stimulate and encourage humility. Some have this quality naturally; but the larger number have to contend against the reverse tendency—self-esteem, self-exaltation, pride—a feeling that they are superior to others.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION
When we come to consider St. Paul's injunction, "in humility esteeming others as excelling yourselves," it is a question as to just what the Apostle meant. Those who have come into Christ should make progress, and should therefore feel that they are better than they were before they came into Christ. Those who have come into Christ know that they are not lower than all others. Evidently the Apostle did not mean that the Lord's people should rate themselves as inferior to other men. In his own case he felt that he was the chief of sinners, because he had been an open opposer of the Truth; and Jesus had said that whosoever should injure one of the least of His disciples would transgress seriously. We cannot say, therefore, that we are the chief of all sinners. We think that few of the Lord's people could say, I am the chief of sinners—either from the standpoint of committing crime or from that of persecuting the Church. We are not to bear false witness against ourselves.
In what way, then, are we to understand the Apostle's injunction? In this way: We are to realize that no two of the Lord's people are just alike. If we have the right focus upon the matter, we shall think of our own talents in a humble manner. We shall think, "I have something of this quality or that talent or grace; and therefore I have much responsibility to the Lord. I wonder whether I am using as faithfully as I could, this talent which I think is greater than that of my neighbor or my brother. Though they may have less than I have, they may be using all that they have with more resolute purpose to succeed than I am using what I have. If this be so, then he is better than I am, in this respect."
A PROPER ATTITUDE TOWARD BRETHREN
As we look around in the Lord's family, we are bound to see the weaknesses and frailties of its various members. We are not to allow our thoughts to dwell too much upon their undesirable qualities, however, but are to remember all their good ones, especially their loyalty of heart. With ourself personally, it is always a recommendation in any one that God has called and accepted him. Whenever we see one who has come into the Truth, we say to ourself, "Well, no matter what he may be according to the flesh, God saw in his heart something good, noble and true; and since God is dealing with him as a son, he is therefore to be esteemed as a brother." Although we might not be able to esteem that man highly according to his natural qualities, yet we would do him good as we had opportunity. He might not be one whom we would select as a companion; yet God may esteem that brother more highly than He does us. Realizing this we would try to keep very humble and to learn whatever helpful lessons we might be able to get from that brother.
In all persons there are certain qualities that may be esteemed and appreciated; even as the old lady said that she could wish that others had as much perseverance as Satan. We are to appreciate good traits whenever we see them in others. We do not know whether in the Lord's sight they may not be more noble, more self-sacrificing, more lowly in mind than ourselves. Our duty is plain. We are not able to read the heart, and hence we are to think kindly and generously of all those whom God has brought into His family. "Love beareth all things, … endureth all things." "As we have opportunity, therefore, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them of the Household of Faith."—1 Corinthians 13:7; Galatians 6:10.
HUMILITY THE PATH TO GLORY
The Apostles Peter and James also emphasize the necessity on the part of the Lord's people that they be clothed with humility. They tell us that this grace is indispensable to those who would abide in the Father's favor; for God resists the proud, while He continually shows favor to those who are of humble spirit. Thus He encourages humility and discourages pride. (1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6.) We can see a reason for this course. The Almighty sees that we have nothing whatever of which to be proud or to boast. Whatever we have has been of the Lord's providence, or favoring circumstances.
The Scriptures give some marked instances of the evil results of pride. Lucifer, one of the very highest of spirit beings, became proud and vain in his imagination, and encouraging these evil qualities he lost his exalted position, having become Satan, the adversary of God. If Mother Eve had possessed the proper humility she would have said, when tempted of the serpent, I will not listen to this suggestion to disobey my Creator; He knows what is for my highest good, and I therefore submit myself to Him who knows all things. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."—Prov. 16:18.
In contrast, we have given to us a beautiful illustration of the opposite spirit—humility—in the case of the Logos. We are shown how He humbled Himself, and how God has highly exalted Him—to the very position which Satan coveted. So if we are fully obedient to the Lord, the results with us will be as with the Lord Jesus, a great blessing, a high exaltation. After presenting this argument, the Apostle says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."—1 Peter 5:6.
The Heavenly Father has deeper love for those who are humble. This is the reason why we should humble ourselves. Since we find that "God resisteth the proud," and that humility is one of the basic principles of a properly crystallized character, we should more and more seek to develop this grace and attain to the attitude in which God can give us the greatest blessing.
THE "SOUND MIND" IS HUMBLE
To humble ourselves does not necessarily mean to think that we have no talent, no power, no ability. Such an attitude would be foolishness. But we should think soberly of ourselves. We should think of all our powers as coming from God. So if we find that we have some blessings more than our neighbor or our brother or our sister, let us be thankful; but let us not for a moment think that we have anything to make us proud. It is a gift. We should appreciate the gift, but we should not be puffed up over its possession. The fact that we have received the gift indicates that we lacked it, needed it.
The one who has naturally a proud heart, but who brings himself to the point of submission, manifests humility. If, on the other hand, one who by nature has too low an estimate of himself, will submit himself to God, the Father will show him the proper attitude of mind. The Apostle speaks of those who receive the Holy Spirit as having the "spirit of a sound mind." In proportion as we seek to become acquainted with God and to submit ourselves to His will, in that same proportion we become balanced in mind. We become more and more sane, if you please. He who receives the mind of Christ, the mind of God, the holy mind, is instructed more thoroughly by the Word. Thus we are getting the balance of a sound mind, the spirit of a sound mind. Our reasoning faculties become more developed as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Truth.
ILLUSTRATION OF TRUE SUBMISSION
No one can come to the Father except through full consecration. We must admit that we need the Master, and that without Him we can do nothing. So we take this position: "I am nothing but a sinner; I know that I am imperfect, that I have nothing which I have not received. God provides everything; whatever I have is a gift from Him. Knowing all this, I gratefully accept these things, and humble myself under His mighty hand."
The world says, "No! I will not submit myself; if I need any punishment I will take what is coming to me." Such is the spirit of a worldly heart that has not yet learned its need and its impotence. But the spirit of a consecrated heart is that of submission to the will of the Lord. Such recognize that their only source of help is the Almighty God, through the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior. For those alone who become His disciples can our Lord become the Advocate; and unless He be the Advocate none can be accepted of the Father. We might have a blessing in the Times of Restitution, but nobody can come to God now except through the Advocate.
The terms of discipleship are that we lay down all earthly rights, earthly interests. Everything must be submitted before the Father will accept us as disciples of Christ at all, before He will beget us of the Holy Spirit, before we can become a part of the anointed Body of Christ. If we would make any true progress, we must say from the heart, "Thy will, not mine, be done." We know that God's will is best, whether we understand that will or not. A person with large self-esteem might, as a natural man, think his own will better; but when he comes to see the Truth, he will say, "I have made mistakes before; but now I will do the Lord's way, regardless of what my judgment may be."
Such a course would evidence real humility, no matter how proud-spirited one might be by nature. As he would progress in the good way, and see more clearly wherein he had made mistakes, his humility would increase. So we are to submit ourselves, humble ourselves, have no will of our own, but merely seek the Lord's will.
ILLUSTRATION OF FALSE HUMILITY
There is such a thing as a false submission, which might deceive even the person himself. One might talk a great deal about submission to the will of God, and yet be only nominally submitting while he is really doing his own will. We are to watch, therefore, that we are carrying out the profession of submission, and that in our daily course of life we are asking, "Is this the course which the Lord wishes me to pursue? Is this the will of God?"
The most submissive will receive the greatest blessings. God will test our submission and our humility. We cannot suppose that our Lord Jesus, who was perfect, did not know that He had perfect powers. But no matter what His own ideas were, He submitted Himself to the Father, and said, "Not My will, but Thine, be done." A man who had no tastes or preferences would be a nonentity. We may know what we would will for ourselves; and yet, knowing this, we are to say to ourselves, "You cannot have your own way about this; you are to seek to know what is the Lord's will concerning you in this matter, and to carry it out, as far as in you lies."
SUBMISSION A TEST OF LOYALTY
Sometimes the Lord's hand is very heavy. It was in the case of our Lord Jesus, heavy, pressed down. But when the Lord felt the Father's hand pressing down, He meekly bowed Himself beneath the weight, in humble acquiescence to the will of the One whose purpose He had come to carry out. But the Hand did not crush Him, although it seemed to do so. Instead of being a crushing, it was the Hand of Love, testing His obedience to the full. When His obedience was fully tested, the same Hand lifted Him up and "set Him at His own right hand in the Heavenly places; far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."—Ephesians 1:20-23.
Thus it will be with us, if we are found faithful. God will exalt us in due time. But He cannot exalt any who are not humble. Submission indicates faith. We would not submit ourselves unless we had absolute confidence in God. And not faith only, but loyalty also, is necessary. Therefore the Father tests us in these two qualities. Without these, we would be quite unfit for the Kingdom; and so the various tests of the present time are tests of faith and loyalty to God, and of entire submission to His will. It is to those "who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality" that God has promised "eternal life."—Romans 2:7.
We should recognize Divine providences and look for them. We should expect God's providential leadings in all of life's affairs. We should not pass through life with the thought that we are running this, or regulating that. As a child would look to his parent, or a pupil to his teacher, or as an apprentice to his master, or a maid to her mistress, so should our eyes be looking to the Lord asking His guidance.—Psalm 123:1, 2.
OUR ATTITUDE IN TRIAL
This Divine guidance we should seek in all things. Suppose that some business complication arises. Perhaps one loses his situation. A child of God who had not learned full submission to the Lord's will might immediately blame some one else or find fault with his employers. But the right attitude for the Lord's people would be to say, "The Father knows all about this matter; He could have prevented it and would have done so had it been for my best interests. There is some lesson here for me to learn, and I will look for it." If he should discover that there had been some carelessness on his part, then he must perceive that the logical consequence would be that he lose the position.
But if after careful investigation of matters, he feels that he could not have been more faithful or more loyal to duty, then he should look further and say, "Lord, I do not see wherein I have deserved to lose this situation, but I am looking to Thee, to see what is Thy providence in the matter; for Thou knowest that I must have some kind of employment; and therefore I merely pray, Give me this day my daily bread. I cannot suppose that this is accidental. Surely Thou hast some lesson for me in this experience. I know not what Thy providence may be. Give me, I pray, the necessary grace and wisdom to perceive Thy will."
As he prays thus, he should at the same time be on the lookout for the Lord's providences and guidance. The child of God who thus acknowledges the Lord, and is faithful to Him in all the details of life's affairs, is the one who will come off victorious and be participator with the Master in His Kingdom. This great exaltation will be given all who are fully submissive to God's will, whether their powers and talents be many or few.
THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF OBEDIENCE
In our context the Apostle Paul urges that the Church cultivate the mind of Christ. He says, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." He had been reciting the qualities necessary to the Church in order that they could be acceptable to the Father. Amongst these was an eager desire to please God. The Apostle exhorts all such to pursue the course of humility and submission taken by our Lord as the only proper path for the Master's footstep followers. St. Paul was endeavoring to impress that the mind of Christ was eminently worthy of imitation and painstaking cultivation.
As a further evidence of the Master's great humility, the Apostle brings forcefully to their attention what Jesus was in His prehuman existence. As the Logos, He was in the form of God—the spirit condition. Yet He was not ambitious; He was not self-seeking. On the contrary, He made Himself of no reputation—divested Himself of His former glory and honor, that He might do the will of the Father. His spirit was directly opposite to that of Satan. The Logos thought not to usurp the Father's place, or to claim equality with Him, but manifested a very different disposition—an attitude of humility. Then "let this mind be in you," urges the Apostle. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." Consider that God has called you with the same High Calling, that you might attain to a place at the right hand of Christ, even as He attained to a place at the Father's right hand. Realizing this, permit this mind of Christ to be in you.
God was not seeking to force this mind upon Christ, nor is He seeking to force it upon us. Our Lord having taken this position of humility, in order to be man's Redeemer, it was needful that He maintain that mind in order to work out the blessed fruitage of patience. Three and one half years were required for Jesus to complete His work; and it was not until after He reached the Cross and could say, "It is finished," that He was "set down with the Father in His Throne." If we have become Jesus' disciples, if we have accepted the conditions of the High Calling, if we have received this mind, then we are to let, or permit, this mind to work out in us the character-likeness of our Head.
THE UNIVERSAL STANDARD OF OBEDIENCE
We have seen that the Logos did not meditate the usurpation to be equal with God, but humbled Himself. Lucifer took the opposite course. Instead of humbling himself, he said, "I will be like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:14.) Here we have an illustration of what we should not do. It is a principle of the Divine Government that "He that exalteth himself shall be abased, but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."—Luke 14:11; 1 Peter 5:6.
Every creature of God, whether angel or man, should have this humble mind. This is the only proper attitude. This test comes during the Gospel Age to only the Lord and the Church. To what extent it may ever come to others is a question. It would seem to be impossible for this test to come to all. Those who have the right disposition will desire to do the Father's will at any cost. Doubtless if any one of the holy angels were allowed the privilege of becoming the Redeemer of a race, he would be glad to do so. We do not know, however, just how it would have been had the angels not seen the result of the obedience of the Logos to the will of the Father.
The world will be subjected to a test during the Millennial Age. The proper attitude for every creature would be to risk everything in the Father's service; it will eventually be the standing of the world of mankind—every one who shall attain everlasting life. We must remember, however, that Divine Justice never calls for self-sacrifice. It calls for obedience; and the obedience of the Church is the extreme of obedience—even "unto death." But the Father has offered a reward so high that such obedience has become the standard par excellence throughout the Universe.—Revelation 2:10.