“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
I try to live by this verse. I fail, probably a lot of times; in fact, I’m sure I do a lot of times, but this verse always resonates with me. How much more would we grant mercy or be willing to love others if we simply did this? Or even tried? How much less disunity and corruption would there be in our lives? In our churches?
I know, we’re Americans. We live by the philosophy that to get what we need, we just take and make it for ourselves. We must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and press on, because the only person who will take care of us is ourselves. Did you know that the Bible never teaches that? We were never meant to live with a mind focused on ourselves. We were meant to focus on Jesus and by doing so take care of others, revealing to them His heart for them. It’s a hard thing to think about in this culture, in the culture of much of the world, but I suppose that’s what’s so revolutionary about Jesus. He never did like to go with what was easy. He never did accept selfishness as mere fact.
The selfless heart is not natural to our human nature, and so it is powerful beyond our understanding.
While selfish ambition seeks to gain power by any means possible, selflessness gives freely without hurting another. Selflessness serves with kindness simply because it is right and good, but ambition does it for what can be gained and how it might boost appearances. While selfishness may gain us power and position, it also steals the purity of our hearts, taking our ability to see God.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4
“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:26
Easy in theory, difficult in practice, with the right motives, anyway.
You see, a servant doesn’t serve because he expects to be promoted, neither does a child humble themselves in order to be made greater.
We must seek to be a person willing to be less so God can be more. We must be willing to lay down our hearts and their desires to take His on. This is no small task, neither is it usually a comfortable one.
The world was never changed for good by someone seeking their own gain. It will never be improved by people out to benefit their own.
So, we must try.
Selfish gain is earthly and temporary, but selfless gain lasts forever. It’s hard to give up present success for the sake of Kingdom success, but we must if we wish to live according to the Heart of God.
We need each other.
We need each other, as much as many of us hate to admit it. The kingdom of God is a beautiful system of connections, where each piece is meant to lean upon another, not to quarrel about who is greatest like the disciples in Luke 9 and 22. Like us, even they succumbed. No one is exempt from the temptation. That’s why we compare ourselves to others, sizing ourselves up to determine if we are better or not. That’s why we often glorify our lives on social media, to appear more than we are. It’s a hard root, buried deep into the human heart.
We cannot work in unity without this truth. We cannot be unified while envy abounds. We cannot be the body where selfish ambition remains king.
We cannot seek our own gain, preservation, or promotion above others if we desire unity.
Every person is important in God’s kingdom, from the largest to smallest, from the loudest to the most quiet. There’s not one person that He does not have a place for, though we aren’t always the best at reflecting that truth, nor are we good at believing it of ourselves at times. We often forget that a platform means little to God. We often forget that it’s the heart of a person and their humility and willingness that determines far more than the popularity of man ever could.
We often forget that popularity is not God’s seal of approval.
We must see each and every person around us as worthy of His love, as worthy of His anointing and useful to the working of His hands, while simultaneously resisting the lie that we are somehow more, somehow better, somehow worthy of a greater degree. Though, believing that we are less and fixating on that by comparison is also equally selfish. A heart that lends itself to fixating on its shortcomings is also solely focused on itself and is unable to see others as God does. The spirit that leads to comparison is simply our ambition seeking to drown out the worth of others to promote our own. In those thoughts for greatness or depreciation, we have staked our worth on our ability instead of on the unwavering truth that we are worthy simply because we are His. By considering others more significant, it would mean that we believe that they are worthy and deserving of our respect, time, effort and service. It would mean considering what would benefit them before considering what would benefit us.
Consider what might benefit others before what might benefit yourself.
I know, we are not perfect. We will fail from time to time. The human heart is not easily tamed, but simply because we may fail, we are not excused from trying.
Failure should never be an excuse to stop trying.
Perhaps if we would simply choose to release our selfish thoughts and motives as we recognize them(because we may not always recognize them), the world would be more beautiful. If we could think of others first, regardless of their position or flaws, perhaps the church would function in more unity.
Though I may fail, I must remember this verse and remember to check myself as I feel myself slide into the old routine of “self”. I must pray and strive to be willing to give every bit of myself and my desires. I must be willing to look foolish to confound the wise. I must be willing to let go of myself, so that He can shine through.
I will try.
I will try, and though I might fail, I will continue to try, and perhaps, one day, it won’t be such a difficult thing to grasp anymore.