Givers and Takers
Israel wanted a king. They wanted an earthly ruler so that they might be like the other nations. God knew that Israel would ask for a king (see Deut. 17:14-20), and when they did he had a sobering warning about the nature of earthly kings.
Samuel warned the Israelites that the king they were asking for would be a taker. He told them that the king would take their sons, take their daughters, take their fields, take their vineyards, take their olive groves, take their grain, take their servants, take their cattle, take their donkeys, take their flocks, and ultimately treat them like slaves to be used to grow his earthly kingdom (1 Sam. 8:9-18). Since the fall of man earthly kings have always essentially been takers.
Juxtaposed to the biblical picture of earthly kings is the portrait of our heavenly king. In Philippians 2:5-11 we see that the pattern of Christ (from which we are instructed to pattern our own lives) takes the form of a being a giver instead of a taker. Jesus had every right to come down to earth, proclaim his divine authority, and demand our allegiance. Yet, he chose a different way, a pattern not found in earthly rulers.
First, he chose to lay down his heavenly glory in order to come to us in human form (vv. 5-6). This one step demonstrates profound humility in the nature of Christ. We could spend eternity dwelling on this single act, his willingness to relinquish his heavenly glory in order to journey with us on earth. However, he did not stop there. He took a second step, and took this pattern one step further. He could have appeared to us in royal robes and all the glory of earthly kings. Instead, he came in the form of a servant (v. 7).
This is beyond our comprehension. Yet, he still did not stop there. He took a third step, and took our pattern still one step further. He humbled himself in obedience to death (v. 8a). How glorious the love and humility of our savior! Yet, amazingly, he still did not stop there. He took a fourth step and took our pattern still one step further. He did not just die, but became a curse for us that we might be redeemed (v. 8b, see also Gal. 3:13). Which pattern are you following, the pattern of earthly kings or the pattern of your heavenly king? Are you a taker or a giver?