“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).
One of the “default wirings” of humankind is the desire to take care of oneself first, before we do for others. We see this play out in a myriad of ways in our lives. Most of us will put our own children before others.,, but when it comes to other adults we’re usually not as giving or as humble. Whether it be driving in rush hour traffic or trying to get in a long grocery line, we are not always very happy when people try to get in front of us on their own, much less us purposely putting them ahead. We teach our kids to be “winners”… we want to be the best, have the most, buy the biggest. We are, ourselves, like big kids, whom often will stop at nothing to “win.”
So, when we come across a verse like this in the Bible… a verse that commands us to put others first… it kind of rubs us the wrong way. It goes against the grain of how we personally feel about people. Actually, it says more about US than it does about others… thinking of others above ourselves is not an easy thing to do! Yet, this is the way of Jesus, as He tells us that the thing God expects out of us the most is to love Him first, and others second (Mk. 12:30-31; compare with Deut. 6:4-5). All Christ-followers in all places are called to love God supremely, and others selflessly and sacrificially.
For some reason, though, we miss this… both individually, and corporately in the church. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy… or too swamped with making our own lives work… or, maybe we truly just don’t care. The interesting thing, though, is that even at the earliest point of the Church’s existence, she knew her purpose was to love God and love people. Acts chapter 2, which details the “birth” of the Church, lets us know that it was primarily the way believers loved God and loved people that the Church saw explosive growth: “And the Lord was adding DAILY to the Church those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
At the end of Philippians 1, the apostle Paul writes to the the believers at the church in Philippi to remind them to make sure their “conduct is worthy of the gospel of Jesus”, and goes on to say that this will show itself… among other things… in unity among the believers. However, there can never be unity without humility, so Paul goes on to show that the only way we can pull this off is to not operate out of selfish ambition or conceit… and to consider others more significant than ourselves.
Difficult, hard words…
… because I really want to be number one.
The Chief Dog. The Big Cheese. The Ace Koom Boom.
Yeah. All dat.
Yet, this is the way of Jesus. He told the disciples that the whole world would know we represent Him by the way we love one another. And earlier in that chapter, in John 13, He served His disciples by washing their feet… and said to them, “I have given you an example, that you should also do just as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:15).
“Be like Jesus, this my song…”
We represent Jesus the most, when… in humility… we selflessly serve the Father and the people He loves. God first. Others second.
I am third.