June 4, 2023 | Duane Roberts
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“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”—Philippians 1:15–18 (NIV)
Have you ever been part of a school or a job where everyone wore a uniform? I grew up attending schools that required uniforms, and although it helped lower the ease of comparison in regards to clothing or style, I still found myself falling into the habit of comparing other parts of myself. I would compare how my uniform looked on myself versus other girls. I would compare the kinds of backpacks, shoes, or jewelry they would wear. I think as human beings, especially in this day in age, we’re just prone to comparison in any situation. It’s unavoidable, and for that very reason we must address it.
I bring up this issue of comparison because this is what some of the people Paul is talking about were most likely struggling with. Comparison is a game we play not only with our physicality or personality, but it’s a game we even play with our spirituality. We compare our faith and gifts all the time, which then leads to a distortion of motives in our ministries. Suddenly, our ministries become selfish and self-motivated, competitive and isolated, as we focus too much on how we can be better than other Christians. This is why Paul warned how some people preached Christ “out of selfish ambition.” Nonetheless, by including this in Paul’s letter, we see not only a warning to beware of this in our own hearts, but the attitude we should take with it moving forward.
Paul’s desire was for the true gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached to all. Despite the frustration of seeing people serve or preach from selfish and envious motives, Paul never lost sight of the omnipotence of the Lord. He knew God was greater than man, which meant he could trust, regardless of man’s motives, the Lord would work and deal with their hearts in His own timing and manner.
Although it’s our responsibility to keep one another accountable within the body of Christ, it’s also not our place to bring condemnation down upon others. We discern whether actions and behaviors are godly or ungodly, and we may need to seek to bring loving correction and rebuke in order to help our brothers and sisters turn from their sin and walk in obedience. This is right and biblical. But just as Paul demonstrates here, we can’t get bogged down by it and let it distract us from the calling of God on our lives. As we live for Christ, we must live with grace and authenticity, checking our own hearts regularly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to lead us in everything we do for the Lord and every interaction we have with His people.
Pause: Have you ever experienced what it’s like to serve from a selfish or envious place? Have you seen it in someone else? How does it taint the service you’re offering to the Lord and set a bad example to those watching?
Practice: Think about how you have or are currently struggling with spiritual comparison. Write or verbalize those struggles and then give them to the Lord. Serve Him today with the intentional mindset of doing it for Him and not for anyone else.
Pray: Father God, I repent of my own pride and envy. It’s so easy to fall into these sinful behaviors because of how easy it is to compare. I need Your Holy Spirit to help me battle these thoughts and tendencies with the power of Your truth and Your humble example. Holy Spirit, I’m here to follow Your lead. May You illuminate my motives and lead me in the right direction. Amen.
Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.