Philippi’s mines supplied the gold that paid Alexander the Great’s army. In Roman times, retired soldiers including the elite special Praetorian Guards settled in Philippi to enjoy a restful life. Lydia, the first convert there, was a trader in ‘purple cloth’ – this was expensive cloth used mainly by royalty and the wealthy.
In Acts 16, we see that the preaching of Paul and Silas in Philippi met opposition. Their accusers, we are told in Acts 16:20-21: ‘brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”’
The Philippians were proud of their history, Roman culture, and patriotic military service laying down their lives for the Roman empire. This partly explains Paul’s tough words to them about humility, especially in Philippians Chapter 2 – which show that Jesus also laid down his life in a big way, for the greatest mission ever.
So Philippians 2:5-9 (Contemporary English Version) says: “…think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.”
Many scholars note that Paul uses phrases like, ‘think the same way’, ‘obey’, ‘honor’, because of the military influence in Philippi. Beyond writing style, Paul’s message to them is clear – humility before God is their number one need; to cure jealousy and pride over who is more important, who has more purple cloth!
To survive trials they were passing through, Paul called on the high and mighty Philippians to put on humility as their number one character trait. In these dangerous times we live in, individual and collective humility will serve us well. It is pleasing to God and vital in ensuring we support one another from a sincere heart.
Dear God, I hear your word, help me live it, Amen!