The Prince and the Pauper - But Not
Wednesday - May 27th
Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: Philippians 2:6-8
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 5:21-26
He made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
When I was a kid, I loved stories like Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper." I was attracted to any story where someone of royalty, fame, or wealth changed places with an unknown person or person of poverty. The story's pauper found themselves being served, respected, and treated like a king or queen. It was an incredible and unbelievable experience. The story's prince discovered the shocking circumstances in which the poor lived. He struggled to be acknowledged by others as those around him, paid little or no attention to him.
After each got past the radical difference of circumstances they experienced in their switched roles, the plot always had a twist. The pauper living in the palace found the castle's significant relationships to be shallow and filled with selfishness. Once the prince got past the loss of wealth and power, he discovered the relationships within the poor family deep and meaningful. The prince returns to the castle, but with a greater perspective on what matters in life. The pauper returns home with a greater appreciation for what he has in his poverty. Exchanging places enriches both of their lives.
Often people reference the Son of God leaving Heaven, being born in the manger, and walking among us as a "Prince and the Pauper" kind of story. What Jesus did is radically different. First, there was no exchange between the throne room of Heaven and Bethlehem's stable. Jesus came here. No one went there in His place. Second, Jesus did not simply leave behind the glory of Heaven. He left more than that to enter into human flesh and live amongst us. Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus "made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." His servant-like nature and human form only came after he "made himself nothing."
The Greek word that is translated "made Himself nothing" is kenosis (κένωσις). It literally means to empty oneself. Theologians point out that God the Son emptied Himself of the independent use of His divine qualities. Through out His life and ministry, He relied on God the Father and God the Holy Spirit to use His divine power and qualities. He didn't stop being God, but He made Himself nothing so He could know what it meant to be human. Theologians also say that he set aside the visible shining glory He displays as God.
Jesus emptied Himself so He could walk among us and be our High Priest who knew what the trials and tribulations of life are really like. He did not merely exchange places like the "Prince and Pauper." He gave up so much for us. He lived selflessly so we could live eternally.
Christ demonstrated for us an important part of His Kingdom. If our Savior and Lord made himself nothing for us, if he emptied Himself for us, then we need to follow His example. We need to live according to his value of selflessness. That is not easy. We are, by nature, people who are full of ourselves. We naturally place our needs and wants above those of others. Often, we do that right at home - among those we love the most. But the way of Christ and His Kingdom is found in His Kenosis.
Ask God to show you where you prioritize yourself over others. Ask Him to show you where you are full of yourself. Confess to Him those places and ask Him to help you put the needs of others ahead of your own.
Jesus left Heaven's glory, made Himself nothing, out of love for you and me. Let's selflessly show others that same love!