Philippians 2: Humility and Work

Philippians 2 divides itself nicely into three sections, although of unequal lengths.

1)  Paul urges the Philippians to humility by reminding them, via a hymn, of the ultimate humility of Christ.

2)  He urges them to work and sacrifice without complaint as a result of the humility Christ engenders in them.

3)  He introduces and commends Timothy to them and announces he is sending Epaphroditus home as well.


This is a hard subject because all of us are looking for the payoff, the quid quo pro.  God if I do stuff for you, or if I live in a manner to your liking, what’s in it for me.  But Jesus didn’t work that way.  He was obedient to God not because of what God could do for Him, but because Jesus loved God more than He loved any of the things God could do for Him.

How cool would it be to be the creator of the universe.  To be God.  If that were us would we behave like Bruce Almighty or like Jesus.  Would we fall in love with what we were and what we could do, or fall in love with God?

We do that every day – fall in love with ourselves.  We like to hear ourselves talk and what we like to talk about most is us.  Or our stuff.  Or our kids. Or our kids kids.  You get the idea, we are full of us.

But Jesus was so in love with God that he gave up all the stuff that was his by right of birth because God said he should.  Instead of making himself look like God, as he was, he took the form of a man.  And not just any many, a man condemned to die it the cruelest way imaginable.

In the fullest expression of the Christian Paradox, Christ gave up literally everything (the answer to everything is not 42, but Jesus did give up Life, the Universe and Everything) at the father’s command.  And because He gave up everything, He received everything.


“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

Note two things about what Jesus received from the Father:

  1. He did not initiate the gift nor was God trapped into giving it to Him.
  2. It was given to glorify God or to the glory of God  as the text says.


This concept is a little, but just a little, simpler.  As a result of Christ’s humility, and because of our desire to imitate Him, work.  I think its like toys at Chirstmas; its not “batteries not included”, but it is “some assembly required”.  God provides us with salvation that is complete, we have everything we need from Him, all the parts were in the box.  But we have to make sense of it in our own lives, we have to “work out” the practical consequences of being saved.

Paul suggests, or rather more than suggests, what some of those practical consequences are, that you’ll work without complaining or arguing.  Now as a denomination if there is anything we have down to a science its complaining and arguing. As far as I can tell we’ve gone out of our way to structure our churches to maximize the possibilities for complaining and arguing.

This strikes home for me because grousing is my natural state and arguing, why I’ve been told I could do that with a fence post.  Paul says that if I want to “shine like the stars in the universe” I’ll find a way to not do that.  I have to say I haven’t been shining much lately.

As an echo of the manner in which Jesus gave up everything, Paul talks about “being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith”.  The drink offering was an adjunct offering for both the Jews and the pagans, something done before or with, but inferior to the main sacrifice.

Timothy and Epaphroditus

Paul follows his thoughts about humility and work in his description of Timothy who apparently is one who has proven to care more for the interests of Jesus Christ than his own.  Paul intends to send Timothy to the Philippians as soon as his own fate is known.

But Epaphroditus he is sending back right away (likely with the return post).  Apparently Epaphroditus has fallen ill, perhaps on his journey over, perhaps while in Rome.  In any event he nearly died but God spared him, Paul believes, to spare Paul additional sorrow.  And again Paul stresses how Epaphroditus worked for Christ, at the risk of his life, to serve Paul for Christ’s sake when the Philippians could not.

Some questions:

  1. What are we willing to give up for the love of God?
  2. What does working out our salvation mean to you?