Giving up Our Entitlements
When we start at the cross to build our biblical perspectives, the first step is to begin with an attitude of humility. We should ask ourselves if our approach to the issue at hand is one of a humble heart or one of a prideful heart. If it is not one of a humble heart then we need not proceed any further. We have stopped seeing the world with a Christ-like attitude the moment our perspectives are no longer molded by an attitude of humility. How then can we know whether or not our perspective is being influenced by a prideful heart or a humble heart? The text we looked at in Building Biblical Perspectives, Part 1 actually gives us great insight into this.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
– Philippians 2:5-8
The key phrase we’re looking at here for gauging the humbleness of our heart is that Jesus did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.
First, we must clarify something to properly understand how this helps us here. This verse does not say that Jesus gave up His divinity or ceased to be equal with God. The phrase, taking the form of a bond-servant, is key to properly understanding this passage in context. The word for form here is the same one used in the phrase, existing in the form of God. And that phrase is best understood as a reference to Jesus’ pre-incarnate state. So what Paul is talking about here is Jesus willingly exchanging His pre-incarnate state for His incarnate state. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament gives us a very clear explanation of this:
“The general sense is that He divested Himself of that peculiar mode of existence which was proper and peculiar to Him as one with God. He laid aside the form of God. In so doing, He did not divest Himself of His divine nature. The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God. His personality continued the same. His self-emptying was not self-extinction, nor was the divine Being changed into a mere man. In His humanity He retained the consciousness of deity, and in His incarnate state carried out the mind which animated Him before His incarnation. He was not unable to assert equality with God. He was able not to assert it.”¹
As Vincent states, “The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God.” Remember we said in Part 1 that the term bond-servant here means slave? Jesus did not give up His divinity and equality with God. One way to look at it: He emptied Himself of His right to be treated as God. He was still divine and equal with God in every way. But He willingly chose not to assert His proper rights to be worshiped as God. He willingly exchanged His right to be treated as God and allowed Himself to be treated like a slave. What does this tell us about testing our humility? A willingness to exchange our rights – the things we feel entitled to – for the rights of someone who is entitled to nothing (like a slave); this is the true test of genuine humility.
Are we willing to humble ourselves?
Often times we are unwilling to humble ourselves because we have this issue of entitlement going on within us. We feel entitled to this or that thing, or to be treated a certain kind of way. Usually, our greatest hindrance to humility and the greatest cause of our pride is the fact that we feel entitled to certain things and certain treatment. We think we’re too good or we feel like people or the world owes us. Especially for Americans because we have certain “rights” which are entitled to us by law and no one’s going to take that away from us – not even God.
We often fail to see things the way God sees them because we won’t let go of our entitlements. What Paul draws out here is that if anyone had the right to be entitled to anything, it was Jesus Christ. He who is God in every sense of the word did not have to lay down His life. He could have sat on His throne and said, “Psh! I’m the Son of God. I created those silly humans. They owe me. I’m not giving up all my glory to go down there and suffer for them.”
He didn’t owe us anything. He had every right, every entitlement, to just sit idly by, demand our worship, and watch us all burn in hell for our rebellion. But… but He didn’t. So the first question to ask yourself when evaluating your heart to test its humility level is: Am I holding onto some silly form of entitlement that maybe God wants me to let go of?
¹Vincent, Marvin R. DD. “Commentary on Philippians 2:7”. “Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament”. “http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/view.cgi?bk=php&ch=2&vs=7”. Charles Schribner’s Sons. New York, USA. 1887.
Copyright © Lawrence Joseph Sterling 2017. All rights reserved.