The Humility of Christ: Why We Should Abandon Selfish Ambition

In this excerpt from the Mobile Ed course Introducing Spiritual Formation, award-winning author and internationally recognized speaker Dr. Gary Thomas explores why adopting the humility of Christ is evidence that we value true holiness.


What is humility?

We don’t want to assume that we are all talking about the same thing. Paul helps us understand humility by anchoring it in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Philippians 2:3–8 we read this:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Jesus personified humility. We see that in the crucifixion but also in the events leading up to the crucifixion.

One of the most offensive episodes of people attacking Jesus occurred as the Roman soldiers mocked him on his way out to the crucifixion. Here, though they didn’t understand it, they had God in the flesh right in front of them. He was deserving of all honor, all glory, and they put a common soldier’s robe over his shoulders to mock him. He who could have a crown of stars was given this very common crown of thorns. Jesus was one of a kind, without compare, and He was dressed like one of 10,000 as they mocked him. Jesus, the king, was dressed to look like a clown.

The humility of Christ

Richard Rolle tells us—he is a fourteenth-century hermit—that this picture isn’t just to demonstrate to us how Jesus expressed humility but how we who want to have the character of Christ should express humility, as well. He says this:

Sweet Jesus, send me the grace to carry my head low and never to exhibit ostentatious mannerisms in appearance nor in expression.… And send me the grace never to covet honors nor position beyond what you have appointed for me.

This isn’t something that we necessarily value. In fact, often we look at Christian leaders as people who should be putting themselves forward, who would be promoting themselves and marketing themselves. We would be far more concerned with a leader who shows financial mismanagement than somebody who is exhibiting pride and selfish ambition.

But Paul, Richard Rolle, and greats throughout Christian history would say if we really value true holiness, we’ll adopt the humility displayed by Christ.1


This excerpt on the humility of Christ is from the Mobile Ed course Introducing Spiritual Formation, on sale now for 47% off in the Monthly Sale.

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  1.  Thomas, Gary L. 2014. PD201 Introducing Spiritual Formation. Logos Mobile Education. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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