God’s Classroom

Philippians 2: 3 – 5

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.   Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

This is so counter-cultural that, frankly, it is difficult for us to incorporate it into our lifestyle. We are actually supposed to put the needs and desires of others before our own wants. For most of us this is beyond difficult. In truth, we rarely even recognize the opportunities which pass by us, opportunities to be a little less selfish. I received one of those opportunities recently and it gave me a chance to examine whether my theology was integrated into my lifestyle or just a collection of pretty thoughts and ideals.

I had to take my car in for routine maintenance. I took my book hoping that I could get a little of my class reading done while awaiting my car. Well, there is a television in the waiting room. I usually prefer not to have a television on so that I can read without distraction. But you know what – it’s not all about me. There were other people there waiting for their cars too. At first it appeared that no one was listening to the TV so I was going to ask them if they minded me turning the volume down. No sooner, however, did I think that thought than this scripture came to mind. Why did the situation need to revolve around my desires or even needs. “Well,” I thought, “if no one is listening to it, what does it bother for me to ask?” But God responded to me instantly. Have you ever noticed that when you really don’t want to hear God it is really easy to hear His voice? Well, anyway, God showed me that the other people there, though they did not appear to be paying attention to the TV, might be enjoying having it on in the background. If I had asked they likely would have consented even though it wasn’t what they wanted. My pursuit of my desires would have put them in an awkward position where they may feel compelled to consent. Why should the world bend and contort to meet my perceived needs?

All of this happened in a flash but I knew this was a point of personal growth. What was more important to me, reading my Christian book for my doctorate in Theology or living my theology? Was it better to put my need for silence at the forefront or to let Jesus lead me and teach me about his divine outlook? Happily Dad spoke in my ear before I could open my mouth. Would it have been a huge sin had I put my needs first? Well, I don’t know. A sin is a sin, isn’t it? I don’t think Dad would have been horribly mad at me but He would see that I just wasn’t ready to grow up. 

As it turns out, I learned more not getting to do my homework than had I imposed my will on the others. Look around you today. Are there ways you can be a blessing to others? Maybe it is just about not being so concerned about what you want or what you perceive you need. There is an opportunity out there for each of us. I hope you find yours.

Modeling Jesus

Philippians 2: 3-5

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

There is an entire sermon in just the first phrase of this passage but I want to focus on the theme contained in the remainder of today’s selection. It is a very important topic and one that does not get a lot of coverage. That is probably because none of us really want to hear it much less teach it or have to submit to it. 

The first phrase calls us to never once act out of selfishness nor to ever act on conceit. The rest of the passage takes us just a bit further. It expands on the theme. Not only are we not to be selfish, we are actually supposed to put other people ahead of ourselves; their interests ahead of our own interests. How many people accomplish this directive? Importantly, how many are even trying? Are we, as the church, even aware that we are supposed to be putting other people, their interests, their needs ahead of ourselves? 

Most of us say that we want to be like Christ. We pray to the Father and to Jesus to help us to become more like him every day. Our churches teach us that we should follow his example and his path and yet how many are clearly telling us that we need to put others before ourselves in all things? And yet verse five says explicitly that this is the attitude which has always been in Christ Jesus.

First we have to learn that this scriptural imperative exists. As of today, at least you are on notice as to its biblical existence. Now we can do something about it. Most of us will need plenty of help in accomplishing this edict. Fortunately there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit who can and will help us. Begin by humbling yourself before the throne. Repent before the Almighty for those times when you have acted out of self-interest. Humility and repentance are cleansing forces. They clear your heart and mind making it easier for you to connect with the Father on a deep level. Then you can ask him for help with an open heart.

I know some people don’t like repenting or asking for forgiveness. We don’t like admitting that we were wrong or have behaved in a way that is not pleasing to the Father. We can make a million excuses why it is not necessary to repent but they are all just wasted breath. Repentance is good for the soul. We are not directed to repent and ask forgiveness for God’s sake. It is for our sake. In order to walk in this kind of obedience, you will need a lot of God’s help. When you need a lot of help from God, you need to connect with him at a very deep level. The way to do that is to start with a clean slate.

I encourage you, even as I admonish myself, that you make this a goal of your heart that you walk in the same attitude as Christ. That we all learn to put other’s needs and interests before our own. I heartily implore you to embrace this way of life. I pray that we would all learn to move ourselves out of our minds and let the ego have a vacation. Dedicate this day to putting yourself out of your mind and out of your motivation. Mark others as more important than yourself and let the Holy Spirit move through you to bless you and others.