February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”—Philippians 2:3–4 (NIV)
I’m guilty. I’ve looked past people I see with a need. I’ve surrounded myself with people like me. I don’t have many friends who are non-Christians. I’ve heard myself saying, “I don’t have time to engage right now. I’ve got too much going on in my own life.” Am I alone?
Let’s consider this text. Paul is writing to the early church in the city of Philippi. Remember these early Christians, in the mere decades after Jesus ascended back to heaven, had no idea how to be a church. So, Paul uses this letter to exhort them to humility and unity, which are characteristics of Christ and behaviors incumbent upon the church that bears His name. Because Paul is specifically telling them in this passage not to be selfish, and imploring them to be humble and to consider others above themselves, it seems like I’m not alone after all. Maybe you’re like me, too!
In fact, I think it’s in our very nature to value ourselves above others. Our culture teaches us to look out for #1, to focus on ourselves. “You deserve it!” we hear. While we do need to be good stewards of our time, talents, and treasure, we can tend to be too obsessed with ourselves.
Jesus Christ came and taught us countercultural messages. “If you want to be the greatest, you must be the least” (Matthew 20:26), and “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), He said. He reversed all cultural norms of His day, and all cultural norms in our day as well. Paul is reiterating that ideology by telling us here to consider our interests last, though our default is reversed.
Here’s the cool part: If everyone considered others’ needs before their own, everyone’s interests would be covered, including yours. You would consider your friends’, family members’, neighbors’, coworkers’, classmates’, roommates’, and siblings’ interests and they all would consider yours. In this way, everyone’s interests would be covered by someone else, which is actually more satisfying! Ultimately, we can also trust that Jesus already has and will continue to look after our interests leaving us free to look after others.
But this isn’t easy. I think we also can get stuck in an “us vs. them” mentality, including “lost vs. found,” which excludes or excuses us from engaging with people who need Jesus just like we do. The gospel isn’t just for those who don’t yet know about Jesus. We all are lost without Him. The good news is for the whole world!
The chapter continues with Paul’s beautiful explanation of Jesus’ character. Jesus didn’t look to His own interests, and He was humble. He, being God, took on a “less than” form by becoming human, because He had your best interest in mind, and my best interest in mind, and every other person’s best interest in mind. He came to seek and to save the lost—and He’s still seeking and saving the lost. The beautiful thing is He invites us to work with Him to accomplish that mission, and He empowers us to do so. Are you willing to say yes?
Pause: What is your attitude toward the “lost”? How can you identify with those who don’t yet follow Christ in order to more humbly engage with them to tell them about Jesus?
Practice: Think about your neighbors, the cashier at the store that you always see, or that coworker you avoid. If they don’t yet know Jesus, write down their names and begin to pray for one of them. How can you invite one of them into your life? How can you show them Jesus?
Pray: Jesus, thank You for the example You set for us. I trust You with my needs and my interests because I know You are the source of everything I have. Help me to be humble like You. Give me eyes to see those who need You all around me. I’m willing, even though I might not know how, or might not feel like it, to be used by You to share the gospel. Fill me with Your Spirit as I go and make disciples. Amen.
Denise Trio has been on staff with Calvary for almost two years, serving as the Director of Strategic Development. She has 10 years of project management experience, with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engingeering from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. When not on campus, Denise is either making her way through her book list at the beach, ordering tacos on any menu that serves them, or running her side business, The Rose Creative, which specializes in creating beautiful and meaningful products for her clients.