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.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
Yesterday Paul expressed the importance of unity among believers so that they can stand strong in the face of the certain hardships that will come as the world opposes their faith. As Paul stated, unity requires us to have tolerance and love for one another.
But unity has a cost. That cost is self. Any group of people cannot be unified if its members are acting on behalf of their own interests at the expense of the interests of the group.
This means we need to examine our motives. Having ambition is fine. But selfish ambition (achievement at the expense of others) is harmful. Nor should we think too highly of ourselves (“conceit”). Rather we are to practice humility.
Humility has two parts: thought and action. Paul tells us to think of others as being more worthy of service than ourselves. Then he tells us to actually behave that way. This order is significant. We can’t act with humility unless we first are thinking with humility.
We are all different. That is by God’s design. The only way we can have the same mind and be of one accord as God commanded [Philippians 2:1-2] is to clothe ourselves in humility. We need to view others are more important as ourselves. Notice we are not to think of ourselves as un-important – we are important to God. Humility is not self-loathing or thinking less of self. It is thinking of self less often.
Notice that humility has to be commanded. We are inherently selfish. Being humble does not come naturally to human beings. If it did, God would not have included this command in the Bible. Nor do we automatically become humble just because we believe in Jesus. The Philippians were believers. Yet Paul still felt the need to remind them how to behave.
It is not unintentional that God sent this message to believers, not non-believers. God commands His children to act with humility. He does not expect those who don’t belong to Him to act this way, because they can’t. The only way a human being can have humility is to be granted it from God through the Holy Spirit. One who does not have the Holy Spirit cannot be humble.
This is one reason why the United States is doomed to collapse, in my opinion. We have become a nation of factions where self-interest trumps what is best for the country. Furthermore, as our nation continues to remove God from our culture, one of the inevitable results will be an increase in selfish behavior. This will only create more disharmony.
In his last public speech in 1799, Patrick Henry uttered the phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. This is exactly what Jesus told us centuries before [Mark 3:25] and what Paul is saying in these verses.
Christians are to be united so we can stand strong in the face of persecution. As counter-intuitive as it seems, that strength comes from humility.
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