the weblog of Alan Knox

How low can you go?

Posted by on Oct 12, 2011 in discipleship, synchroblog | 12 comments

How low can you go?

This post is part of an October synchroblog called “Down We Go.” (Click that link for more information about this synchroblog and synchroblogs in general.) Several bloggers are publishing posts on this topic today. (Whenever I get updates, I’ll add a list of links to the other bloggers at the bottom of this post.)

So, what is “Down We Go” all about? Well, from what I understand, it was inspired by Kathy Escobar’s book by the same title. Unfortunately, I have not read her book yet. However, we were told that we did not have to write about or interact with the book. Instead, we were asked to write about the same theme.

What theme? Well, here’s a description:

Independence. Success. Upward Mobility. Security. Comfort. In subtle and direct ways, many of have been sent a message by the world (and sometimes by the faith systems we have been part of) that life is about moving up–away from pain and suffering and toward comfort, stability, and put-togetherness. This kind of living is much different than the kind of life Jesus calls us to in the gospels. Jesus consistently modeled going down into the low and messy places of people’s experiences–intersecting with the lepers, the lonely, the outcasts, the marginalized. He calls us to a life of humility, love, and interdependence.

The way of life to which we are exhorted in the New Testament (and way of life mentioned in the description above) is perhaps best described as a life of humility. By “humility,” I mean a modest view of one’s own importance. This type of life is exemplified and exhorted in many passages of Scripture. One of my favorite examples is found in Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

A life of humility finds encouragement, comfort, affection, and sympathy in Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship (participation) in the Holy Spirit. (These are in direct opposition to the type of life that finds encouragement in that person’s own accomplishments or abilities.) Similarly, the life of humility responds through harmony with others, love, and unity without rivalry or conceit. Perhaps most importantly, a person of lives in humility considers the desires, thoughts, opinions, and interests of others as more important than his/her own. The last statement is very important. A humble person is actively engaged in the pursuit of interests that are important to others just as much as the pursuit of that person’s interests even if those interests (of the other people) are not important to that person.

This is a life of humility. A life that is demonstrates by our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts his readers (in Philippi) with the example of Christ’s life:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

According to Paul, Jesus Christ was not only “in the form of God” but was equal with God. However, he did not hold on to this equality with God choosing instead to lower himself to our level, and, even more, taking the humbling position of a servant and then allowing himself to face a humiliating death. Jesus gave up what was rightfully his for the benefit of others. This is humility.

While Jesus Christ was much more than a good example to follow, he was and is an example. (This passage among many others present Christ to us as an example to emulate.) Obviously, it is impossible to “have this mind among yourselves” without with the new life that we have in Christ and without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, for those of us in Christ, we are exhorted to live a life of humility. In fact, we should be asking ourselves, “How low can we go?”

Even more, humility is a characteristic that should be even more apparent among more mature believers. It may be demonstrated in acts of service, offers of hospitality, willingness to follow and submit to others, desire to support others in their interests and concerns, and, finally, the laying aside of one’s own interests. Unfortunately, among the church today (as among society), “leaders” are usually expected to demonstrate the opposite of these characteristics, demanding that others follow the leaders’ advice and opinions.

When Paul penned his letter to the church in Philippi, he specifically included in his address those who are “overseers” (bishops) and “deacons.” His commands to humble yourselves by considering the interests of others as more important are given to these leaders as much as (and perhaps more than) others among the church.

“How low can you go?” This is a question of humility that all of live in Christ should be asking themselves. And, if someone is not exemplifying this kind of life of humility, this person should not be followed, because this person is not leading others to follow Christ.


Here is a list of others who are blogging on the topic “Down We Go”:


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-12-2011

    Alan – Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Several years ago I memorized the whole book of Philippians. It’s quite a process (it took about 3 months) to memorize something as long as Philippians (sure it’s short compared to other books of the Bible but it still has 104 verses). I was in a small group and we were studying the book and some of us committed to memorizing it. It turns out that the best way to do it was to memorize a few verses at a time and work on them for several days before adding a few more. Each time you add verses you of course have to still include the previous verses so as time goes by you end up repeating the earlier verses a whole bunch of times. Even after you memorize all 104 verses you have to spend a little time each day for quite a while reciting the whole book as the only way to commit something to memory is through repetition. The other thing that is important when memorizing something like this is to try and speak with the inflection that you believe the writer would use. Doing that helps you follow the flow of the text and understand the text and therefore helps your mind retain the information.

    I tell you all of that to say that repeating Philippians so many times, saying it in the way that I believe Paul would have said it, and thinking about it’s meaning over and over again had a tremendous impact upon me. I believe that it was a transforming experience.

    When I read your post I was reminded of all of this and I remembered that my experience was very helpful in creating a spirit of humility in me and from where I sit right now I think I need another dose.

    So, I think I will do a little refresher course on Philippians. I know it won’t take me as long this time because I still remember a lot of it but it will still take a few weeks. Thanks for unknowingly giving me this nudge.

  2. 10-12-2011

    Your last line is so convicting! For me, however, it is so hard to discern any more who is following Christ in humility. But I think that you indicate some good things to look for in your post, and I think that what you and your church are doing for the poor and needy in your community shows the heart of Jesus as well. These are some of the things to look for .

  3. 10-12-2011

    Not only is your last line convicting, as Jeremy said, but one phrase from your scripture citation in Philippians jumps out. “So, if there is…ANY PARTICIPATION IN THE SPIRIT”. In community together as brothers and sisters, participation in the spirit is one of the key ingredients. There exist, in the world today, countless “churches”–whether the leadership structure is episcopal or congregational–wherein many “take the Name” but don’t truly “participate”. Laying down our lives for one another in community and walking humble with God before an unbelieving world may not necessarily include an expectation of becoming a doormat for the “Pharisees” who embrace the form of Godliness but lack the power (participation in the Spirit) thereof (which is rooted in the lack of those things Paul referenced in the Philippians passageand in love, affection, sympathy, joy, unity, etc). For those interested, Dr. Stephen Crosby offers an edifying explanation of Biblical gentleness, humility, and meekness in Silent Killers of Faith (pp. 39-42)

    I applaud your boldness in your conclusion, Alan. It reminds me of the story of a carpenter who took up a whip and turned some tables…and then took up a cross and turned Creation right-side up again. If we have to move downward to get there, it’s worth it!

  4. 10-12-2011


    I started memorizing Philippians a few years ago also. I didn’t memorize the whole book, but I remember being constantly convicted by the words of chapter 2.


    Treat someone like a servant. How do they respond? That will let you know how humble that person is.


    The church is following its leaders… although I’m not sure they are following them in the right direction.


  5. 10-12-2011

    Would you believe I have never read Philippians all the way through? I’m no slouch at Bible study, but somehow I’ve always been detoured when I came from it. What you say here is so meaningful, I think I will start on it tonight.

    I have always been intrigued by what we mean by humility. I don’t think it is groveling among the rubble since we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But what then? You have definitely given me food for thought.

  6. 10-12-2011

    “Perhaps most importantly, a person of lives in humility considers the desires, thoughts, opinions, and interests of others as more important than his/her own.”
    This line as well as the last line the everyone has mentioned “hit” me the most.
    Considering others thoughts and opinions more important?! Alan, I think you’re blog is more important than my blog! ha! okay, humor, false humility…that’s where my silly brain went with that. Maybe I should get some sleep!
    All that being said, humility is hard…and it takes great courage! GREAT post and thanks for sharing all of the scriptures! I needed to read them…always do!

  7. 10-13-2011

    Marta and Tammy,

    Thanks for the comments. Philippians is definitely a challenging letter.


  8. 10-13-2011


    Certainly a subject which needs to be understood by most who claim to be followers of Christ, especially leaders, who fail to apply such thinking to themselves. Servanthood is the bottom of the heap, not the top!

  9. 10-28-2011

    Really challenged by this post Alan – was looking forward to the ‘Down we go’ synchroblog :) I always struggle a bit with ‘consider others more significant than yourselves’ because it’s been drummed into me since I was young to the point that I became a serious people-pleaser. Now that I’m entering recovery I’m challenged to see that Jesus served people only in obedience to his Father. If we become too focused on serving others, we can stray into being used and manipulated by people. I’d be really glad to hear any thoughts you have on this!

  10. 10-28-2011


    I would think that if we are serving other people in response to God’s work in and through us and in obedience out of love for him, then people cannot manipulate, use, or take advantage of us… even if it might appear that way to others.


  11. 11-1-2011

    Thank you Alan, you’re right, and God is starting to show me that the only way we can love others is to start by knowing how much we are loved in God. This is the only way we can love without expecting something in return from those we are loving and serving. In my life I’ve heard more about what I need to do for God and for others than about how much my Father loves me. I realise you’ve written about 20 new posts since this one, but you made me think and I wanted to reply!

  12. 11-1-2011


    It’s never too late to talk about the love of God. Thanks for following up on the previous comment!