In this second part of considering the power of humility in parenting, I hope to continue unpacking what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that Christians are only to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
Paul’s admonition has tremendous implications for parenting. As we study seven aspects of humility in his letter to the Philippians, I hope you’ll see how to put God’s Word into action in your parenting. In last month’s Chariot of Fire, we thought about the first aspect of humility: Only live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The second aspect of humility is absolutely essential for parenting in a way that draws your children to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Aspect #2: Empty Yourself.
Have you noticed the primary difficulty associated with living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It’s selfishness! What is the relationship of humility to selfishness? After making it very clear that Christians are to have one purpose that pervades all of life, Paul talked about selflessness and humility of mind.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 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 (Phil. 2:1-6a).
The intentional purpose Paul had in mind was, of course, that they walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, which he had mentioned in 1:27. He then answered the question, “What does it look like to walk in such a way?” The answer: Empty yourself. This is no small imperative. The Spirit of God sounds a call to war against the beast of self, who demands to be reckoned as king and lord of all we do.
Do nothing from selfishness.
Let’s put this statement in a positive frame: Do everything from selflessness. Everything?! Certainly parenting is a subset of everything. How much of your parenting makes much of what you want or desire without consideration of what pleases the Lord or would be in the best interest of your children? When people make much of themselves and expect others to pay attention to them or think of them first, we sometimes think of them as narcissists, don’t we? Have you ever made a judgment about another person by thinking, “They are so full of themselves”?
Pride lies at the root of a selfish attitude. It’s the opposite of humility, which is why it makes sense that Paul would use a contrasting conjunction and write, “but with humility of mind.” Emptying self requires that a person be humble-minded or low-minded. Practically speaking, humility puts ourselves low in rank when relating to others. Let’s talk more about this when we consider the third aspect of humility in next month’s Chariot of Fire. For now, consider the basis for Paul’s admonition to empty yourself and do nothing from selfishness.
Jesus emptied himself.
The great apostle certainly doesn’t miss the importance of Jesus’ example as he unloaded his guns against self. The Lord Jesus emptied Himself in order to overcome the beast of self, its rebellion, and hostility that rose out of mankind to displace God Himself. Although He was God, in the rightful place of authority, He did not live with a sense of entitlement. Although we are parents, older, wiser, and in the place of authority, we too must not live with a sense of entitlement.
When I use the term self, I refer to man’s nature under the control of the sin, and especially the sin of pride. Self feels entitled to not be inconvenienced, but children do violence to convenience in numerous ways from the time they are conceived. When that happens, you may find your self offended, angry, and bitter. Sharp rebukes, harsh tones, and the spirit of self can permeate every word and action when self isn’t emptied. This pride and purpose in parenting is not missed by the children, and when they detect selfishness in you, that same spirit is fanned in them, resulting in a negative reaction.
Self also feels entitled to respect, but children do not give God, much less you, the respect that is due. Why? Because they are so full of themselves. They expect you to make them the first consideration in all things. Could it be that they are merely imitating their parents who expect their children to make them the first consideration in all things?
How can we powerfully call our children to unite with us in one purpose, to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, if we will not empty ourselves as we relate to them, consider decisions to be made, and discipline them? One of the most powerful things a parent can do is admit when he or she is selfish or has done a hurtful thing, or said something in a wrong spirit. But this cannot be done as long as we hold on to self-esteem and self-significance. We must teach our children how to empty self by example. One of the best ways to apply this aspect of humility is to admit when we have been wrong or selfish and then apologize (we will have many opportunities :-).
We are to have the same attitude in ourselves 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. Very few things merit the respect of our children as much as this second aspect of humility in parenting. Isn’t it what moves us and amazes us about Jesus? Let us learn from Him and walk worthy of Him daily as we empty ourselves for the sake of the gospel.
I conclude with a caution and encouragement. Self may deceive us into thinking that if we empty ourselves, then our children should respect us, and everything will turn out right. In such cases, the motivation is manipulative and self-centered. We don’t humble ourselves and empty ourselves because it “works” in the temporal realm. Such emptying of self is really not emptying of self, but self putting on a front of humility for its own benefit and comfort. We might refer to it as false humility. I encourage you to desire to be like Christ, to express His attitudes for His glory. This desire gives birth to humility in parenting. May the Holy Spirit show you what things your self feels entitled to so you can empty yourself and put away what Paul called, empty conceit. This compound word in the Greek literally means empty glory. Any glory we seek for ourselves is empty glory. Fullness of glory can only be seen in Christ as His Spirit manifests His humility to our children whether they respond to it or not.
Summary and application
1st aspect of humility: Only live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
2nd aspect of humility: Empty yourself.
Don’t do anything in your parenting from selfishness.
Being humble-minded puts ourselves low in rank when relating to others.
Jesus emptied Himself as our example, and He lives in believers, so they can have the same attitude.
Caution: Don’t empty yourself out of selfish motives. That’s empty conceit. Instead, let desire to glorify Jesus Christ (walk in a manner worthy of Him) motivate your emptying of self.
1. Discuss with your spouse how much of your parenting is influenced by selfishness. Here are some things to consider:
• Vision for the children.
• Decisions in the use of time and energy.
• Reactions to the children.
• Tone of voice.
• Entertainment choices.
• Sports involvement.
2. Consider selecting Phil. 2:3-6 for a family memory project.
3. Discuss with your family how confession of sin, admitting wrong-doing, and asking forgiveness of someone you have wronged or offended exemplifies emptying of self and being humble-minded.
4. Express in writing what God has spoken to you in this article. I invite you to “like” and write a comment on The Spirit of Elijah Ministries International Facebook page.