Motivational speakers sometimes tell us that success is all about our attitude: If we have the right attitude, even the most trying circumstances can be turned into success. A positive attitude can overcome negative situations. Your attitude determines your altitude.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Philippians 2:5 NLT
(See also 1 Peter 4:1-2.)
For a follower of Jesus – someone who is trying to live like Him and follow His example – this is a clear goal: to have our attitude match Jesus’ attitude. So, what does that look like? The same chapter in Philippians goes on to describe this:
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8 NLT
That is a pretty high bar to meet! With all of the power and all of the authority that Jesus has as God, He willingly chose to set them aside and voluntarily submitted to a humble life.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus served others. Sometimes, this was individual service, like when He washed His disciples’ feet. Other times, it was more like a public service, providing food (or wine) for large groups. His humility wasn’t weakness; it was founded in the strength that Jesus had, allowing Him to either serve others or serve Himself. With the ability to choose, He chose us (rebellious human beings) over His own well-being.
So, if our goal is to have Jesus’ attitude, what power or authority do we need to give up? Maybe you work as a leader in a business, school, or other organization. Maybe you have a say in how your family operates, or you get to control how a relationship with someone else will develop. In those cases, Jesus’ example shows that leadership in truth can still be holy, but even the leader (with all of the answers) sometimes needs to let go of the privileges of power, and choose to bless others by giving up his or her own rights. The manager who could force an employee to work late in order to finish a project for the next day, also has the ability to set aside authority and personally do the work instead (letting the employee enjoy an evening at home). The person with the authority to make choices in a family can yield that right to others and let someone else decide what the family will do over the weekend. Jesus didn’t abandon truth, and He regularly called out the single right path. However, where there was a choice, He frequently yielded to choices for the good of others, often at the expense of His own well-being.
In the same way, who do we need to humbly serve, and how? Some service is public, and there were many who saw Jesus heal sick people. There are times when we might be called to do good when others can see. On the other hand, sometimes when Jesus healed people, He told them not to go around telling others (at least, not right away). For instance, He turned water into wine without the knowledge of the master of ceremonies at the wedding. In the same way, there is probably a lot that we need to do for the Kingdom of God that is hidden, where only God sees (Matthew 6:3-4).
In either case, humility is manifested in doing things for someone else’s benefit, instead of our own. While others may incur some benefits when we serve for our own glory, that’s about as far as it gets (see Matthew 6:1). When our focus is on serving others like Jesus did, it no longer matters whether or not anyone knows what we are doing. Even a “thank you” from the recipient isn’t required as a condition of our service to them. In humble service, the question is no longer whether we have the power or authority not to serve. It only matters whether we are called to serve someone else.
A life of serving others and giving up our rights (in exchange for what is even more important) is not an easy path to walk, but Jesus showed us what it looked like. His attitude wasn’t about how far He could advance in life, but in what people around Him (including us, years later) really needed.
May our attitude govern our servitude.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.