The Self and Service: Phil 2:3

Philippians chapter 2

Standout verse: Phil 2:3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”

We always remember two sayings of Jesus when it comes to our relationship with others. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “love your neighbour as yourself.” Paul goes farther with this verse that we don’t quote too often.

  • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” – this is really difficult. We will always at least sometimes do things for ourselves, for our own gain. More often than not, our lives are based on it. Our society values doing things for yourself. Self-reliance, self-sufficiency… It is assumed that most of what we do is for the self, the left-overs are for others.
  • Most the “others” we often do things for are often extensions or close relations to the self: spouse, children, family, friends. Doing things for them is very good, but even better is serving the truly other, the enemy, the stranger. But this is rare.
  • “regard others as better” – we generally don’t like this. We like to place ourselves somewhere in the middle or near the top depending on what it is. If its a skill we like to be better than others. If its wealth, we want to be near the top, unless we feel guilty, then we want to have some above us.
  • “regard others as better” is really about service. Think of all others as having a higher station than you. Think of them as a king or queen and yourself as their subject. Think of them as the boss and yourself as the worker.

This verse has a really high demand on us. I try to live by this, but it is so hard. At what point do I put some of my needs first? At what point does not attending to my own needs start to hurt others because I’m not psychologically able to be there for them anymore? There is a certain level of self-care needed to be able to serve others effectively. Where is that line?

  • We need, again to remember that this verse is directed at a community. If everyone in the community truly did this for one another, you would be cared for and would be more able to serve.
  • If you choose a life of service, you also need to make sure you are in a community that will care for you. This means active participation and a willingness to tell others when you need something. Not being needy (or to draw attention to yourself), but being honest so that together you can serve others effectively.
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