Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.
Rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.
He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that He humbled Himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.
These words, taken from the 2nd chapter of Philippians, perfectly sum up the earthly life of Christ and how He conducted Himself. And in order to follow Him and become like Him, we must adopt the same attitude He had. And St. Paul said as much in the line before this passage, which sadly is usually omitted in lectionaries and breviaries: Have among yourselves the same attitude which is also yours in Christ Jesus. Yes, we are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Yes, we have been redeemed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. But, like Jesus Himself did, we must humble and empty ourselves of any sense of entitlement or status.
I’ve seen memes on Facebook in the past that have things like a little girl straightening a crown on her head with words such as “On days when I feel beat down, I remember whose daughter I am and I straighten my crown.” Other things describe us as princes and princesses because we are the sons and daughters of a King. While these things can help in reminding us what a great God we serve, they do become dangerous when we really begin to take them as we would if it were in an earthly sense. Earthly kingdoms are about status and power and wealth. But this is not so with the kingdom of God. “The last will be first, and the first will be last,” as Jesus reminds us multiple times in the Gospels. In Luke chapter 14, Jesus tells us that when we are invited to a wedding feast, we must not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished would arrive and we would be ordered to give him our seat. Rather, we should automatically take the lowest place and wait to be invited by the host to take a higher place.
This is how the kingdom of heaven will be and it is how we must conduct ourselves on earth. We must become slaves to God and to others, serving them without thought for ourselves and our own identity as a child of God. Now, of course, we must not forget that part of us, but we shouldn’t use it as a means to control others and get them to serve us, as sons and daughters of earthly kings sometimes do. In this way, we die to ourselves even if we are not called to physically suffer martyrdom.
Humility is the foundation of all virtues and it is this disposition that Jesus wishes us to have in order to follow Him. Why? Because without humility, we cannot begin to acquire the other virtues. It is essential because if we are prideful, we will always think we have the virtues we need and that they’re isn’t room for improvement, which of course isn’t true. We are human and our nature is fallen. Because of this, even if we work tirelessly to acquire virtue, we will always make mistakes and have room for little improvements here and there. We must look to Jesus and Mary for our example in acquiring virtue and continually humbling ourselves in order to be open to God’s grace.
We are not like Jesus, Who was God even in the form of man. We are human beings who are fallen away as a result of Original Sin. So, if Jesus, Who was God in spite of being in human flesh, humbled Himself and gave no thought to His equality with God, then how much more should we, mortal men, strive to acquire this disposition of humility in order to follow Christ and be with God in heaven? If we do so, we can expect to receive the same reward that Christ did, described in the next verses of the Scripture passage quoted above:
Because of this,
God greatly exalted Him.