Rewardable Attributes: Humility

Rewardable Attributes: Humility

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

I must admit that when I signed up to write about this particular attribute from the Beatitudes, I really had no idea of what it meant to be poor in spirit. Previously, I had assumed that it meant something along the lines of being sad or maybe weak. After a good deal of searching and sifting, however, I found the clarity I needed in an article by Zane Hodges. In “Possessing the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3),” Hodges explains:

“The kingdom, Jesus informs us, will belong to those who are “poor in spirit.” That is to say, it will belong to His disciples who have learned true humility and submission of heart toward God.” (1)

Viewing this quote as a good working definition for what it means to be poor in spirit, we will use the word humility in its place throughout the remainder of this article. We will examine what it means to be poor in spirit by tracing the pathway from humility to honor as exemplified in the lives of Christ, the Apostle Paul, and Moses.

As Kathryn pointed out in the intro to this series, “The attributes the Lord desires to see in us are the ones He demonstrated first.” A beautiful portrait of our Savior’s humility can be found in Philippians 2:5-8 (NKJV):

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

A key phrase in verse 7 sticks out, which states that Jesus “made himself of no reputation.” Other versions translate this phrase differently. The NASB and ESV say He “emptied himself,” while the NIV says He “made himself nothing.” The CEV simply but powerfully states that He “gave up everything.” The King of the universe became a “nobody” (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:46) in order to remove the sin barrier and offer us eternal life free of charge, simply by believing in Him for it (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9). His life in exchange for ours. Verse 8 seems to indicate that it was Jesus’ humility which enabled the obedience required to make such an exchange possible.

Even so, as we see in verses 9-10 of Philippians 2, humility ultimately leads to honor:

“Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on the earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

In a recent study of Hebrews, I learned that it was likely when Jesus had completed his mission and ascended to Heaven that he received the “name” referred to above in verse 9. That name is “Son,” which carries a special biblical connotation meaning “King.” In Hebrews: Partners with Christ, Ken Yates explains:

“Because of His completed work, Christ entered a new relationship with His Father and His people. On the day of His exaltation to the right hand of His Father, all the prerogatives of being king were His. He was declared the Son of God in this special sense at that time” (p. 29).

Although Jesus’ earthly life was marked by humility and lowliness, it was the very qualities of subservience and deference to God’s plan which paved the way to His eventual exaltation as King!

The life of the Apostle Paul reveals a similar trajectory as he follows the example of our Lord. Having once enjoyed the prestige and acclaim that came with life as a foremost Pharisee, in Romans 1:1, Paul calls himself a “bondservant of Jesus Christ.” Going further, in Philippians 3:7-8 (NASB), he declares:

“But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ…”

Paul’s words here were written from prison. Far removed from the power and influence of his former years, the Apostle’s life was marked by constant hardship and trials as he denied himself in wholehearted devotion to the advancement of the Gospel. He suffered imprisonment, stoning, shipwreck, and want. Yet in humility, he endured, because he knew that being a “nobody” here would make him a “somebody” there. He embraced Jesus’ invitation to His disciples in Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV):

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Paul understood that a life of humble sacrifice would result in honor and reward in eternity because Jesus had also said:

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with his angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matt. 16:27, NKJV).

An Old Testament example of this same pattern can be seen in the life of Moses. Having been raised amid the splendor of Pharaoh’s palace, Moses renounced his standing as Egypt’s prince and opted for life among God’s people. That included slavery at the hand of the Egyptians and all manner of trials in the wilderness as he attempted to lead an unruly people to the promised land. Moses, too, “gave it all up” in humility. Like Paul, he eschewed what the world had to offer and “lost” his own life in pursuit of something greater. Hebrews 11:24-26 (NKJV) explains his motivation:

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”

With their example in mind, may we strive to emulate the humility of Christ, Paul, and Moses as we labor for His kingdom, knowing that “whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, NASB).

Written By Kelley Easley

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