Focal Passage: Philippians 2:1-4; Luke 14:7-11; John 13:3-5,14-15
Years ago I was discussing different worship practices with my father-in-law, who is also a Southern Baptist minister. He had recently filled the pulpit for a local congregation in the Church of the Brethren denomination. He explained that at every service the congregation washes one another's feet, women washing the women's feet, and men washing the men's feet. This is not a regular practice among Southern Baptist churches, so I asked how he felt about it. My father-in-law explained that he participated, but encountered some personal difficulty. The difficulty was not that he had to wash the feet of a stranger; it was that he had to let someone else wash his feet.
This lesson on humility flows naturally out of last week's emphasis on unity. In fact, the Apostle Paul's teaching on humility from Philippians 2 begins with a basic appeal to unity in the body of Christ in verses 1-2, and flows naturally into an explanation of humility in verses 3-4. The bond we have with other believers in Christ, through the fellowship of His Spirit and the love we share from Christ, should be shown explicitly in how we relate to one another. If we love other believers as Christ loves us, we will give place to them and put ourselves last. True Christian love is about sacrifice. "Love is not selfish" I Corinthians 13:5 (HCSB).
Jesus masterfully used an occasion where a lack of humility was displayed to hammer home this truth. In Luke 14:7-11, Pharisees were arriving at a banquet and automatically choosing the seats of honor, evidently disregarding their host’s wishes in the matter. They counted themselves worthy of honor and so they took it. Jesus pointed out that the places of honor were to be determined by the host of the banquet, and some were sure to be embarrassed when they were asked by the host to vacate the places of honor that he had chosen for others. Humility does not seek its own promotion or recognition. Humility lets praise and promotion come from another, when it is truly earned. Pride, however, promotes self above others and only leads to humiliation. "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips" Proverbs 27:2 (HCSB).
The greatest example of humility was displayed by Jesus Himself, when He set aside the glory and prerogatives of Deity and clothed Himself in the form of a man. However, His greatest example that we can emulate is when He washed His disciples' feet in John 13. As far as we know from the written record, there were no servants present to perform this menial task before the meal; and apparently, none of the disciples chose to serve their brethren in this manner. John 13:3 shows that Jesus knew His position and status with the Father, and was secure in it. Therefore, He could serve His disciples in this lowly way and feel no shame or humiliation. His standing with the Father was sure; He had nothing to fear. He could choose to serve others, even taking on the task of the lowliest servant. What a contrast with the previous scene! The Pharisees pressed for an honorable seat, and Jesus left His to wash other men's feet. He then instructed His disciples, and us, to follow His example and serve others with the same humble spirit.
Are you demonstrating true humility toward those in your circles of influence? Because of the security you have in Christ, will you choose to live in humility and serve others? How can you "wash another's feet" this week at church? At home? At work? In the marketplace?
— Stover is senior pastor of Ararat Baptist Church, Jackson.