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
Selfish ambition. Promoting my own self-interests ahead of others. There are many who seem naturally to put others first. But it seems the majority of us, starting with Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:6), think of self first. And the advertising industry takes full advantage of this. Most ads are appealing to the same things that tempted Eve, what seems good, pleasing, and desirable to the targeted individual.
But Paul here tells us that we need to act contrary to our basic human nature. To not be looking out for self, or acting from an inflated sense of pride. His desire for the church at Philippi, and for us who read his words, is that we might be one in spirit and mind (Phil. 2:2). And having a ‘me first’ attitude, or promoting my own agenda, is not conducive to that unity.
Value Others Above Yourself
Instead, Paul calls on us to act with true humility. Caring more about other believers than I do myself. Putting their wants and needs ahead of my own. There are many ways that this can play out. Some are obvious, and some are not so obvious. And they will vary from person to person.
One of the biggest challenges I have is simply to stop and talk with people. There are some folks that I enjoy talking with and we have a lot in common. I find their conversation to be stimulating and enjoyable. But there are many more that I would prefer to keep the verbal interaction to a minimum. And, I am ashamed to admit it, there are times when I find that I actively avoid making contact with some. Conversation with them is just too painful for me.
Yet, if I am going to follow Paul’s direction here, I need to put that other person’s need to talk ahead of my own desire to not talk. To just stop and listen to them, letting them know that I care. And there are so many other ways, some subtle and some not so subtle, where we/I need to put down our own interests and put others first.
And the more we/I do this, the more we will draw together as a body and experience the unity Jesus desires for us to have (John 17:20-23).