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“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7, NKJV)
I used the New King James Version translation of the passage above because of the way it translates verse 6: when Jesus was on this earth, He made Himself “of no reputation.” I find that to be a fascinating translation, more descriptive than the New International Version’s “He made Himself nothing.” For many of us, our reputation is something we closely guard, even if we are not aware that we are doing it. We want to be seen as intelligent, or hard-working, or moral, or cool, or successful, or attractive, and so we carefully screen out that which we want the world to see and that which we wish to hide from others.
But Jesus is not like us. When He came, He made Himself of no reputation. His only concern was to do the will of the Father, to follow Him completely, even to death on a cross, in order to save us from an eternity of separation from God. And if that meant being misunderstood, rejected, mistreated, and even unjustly killed, then He was willing to sacrifice His reputation for that greater purpose.
Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century British preacher who is considered to be one of the greatest preachers of all time, raised chickens at his home with his wife. He would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs the chickens laid. Even his closest relatives were expected to pay for the eggs. As a result, some labelled him and his wife as greedy. But through it all, the Spurgeons accepted the criticisms without defending themselves. It was only after they died that the full story was revealed. All of the profits from the sale of the eggs went to support two elderly widows.
When I hear a story like that, I see just how much my reputation means to me. If I were in Spurgeon’s shoes, I would be quick to defend myself. Not only would I save myself from being seen as greedy, but I would actually come to be seen as generous! What a boost to my reputation. But to follow Jesus means to give without letting my left hand know what my right hand is doing. It is to give in secret, so that God might reward me (Matthew 6:3-4).
Our reputation is often one of the biggest idols we have in our lives. In other words, when we are faced with a choice between following God and damaging our reputation, and disobeying God while preserving our reputation, we often choose to preserve our reputation. When we do so, we are acknowledging that we receive our feelings of worth from what others think of us, or sometimes even what we think of ourselves, instead of what God thinks of us. We are declaring that it is more important to be honored and elevated by others than it is to be honored by God. We are confessing that God’s judgment does not matter as much as the court of public opinion. We are not like Jesus, or even Paul, who said in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “ I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
Today, take some time to meditate on Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation so that He might save you. Now, that same Jesus has been given the name that is above every other name, given supreme honor by the Father. Consider how you put your reputation above God’s will, and take some time to confess and repent before the Lord, that He might transform you more into the image of Christ.
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