(Philippians 2:2-4) — 2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. (NET)
(Extended context: Philippians 2:1-11)
The only way for us to have the “same mind, same love, to be united in spirit, having one purpose,” (vs. 2), is to be totally selfless, to walk in sincere humility, to think more highly of others than we do of ourselves. The Christian life is not about us. It’s about Jesus and serving Him, which always has the welfare of others in view — which begins at home, then to the local assembly of believers. Together we take the love of Christ out into the world, advancing His kingdom.
There’s no room for selfish pursuits in the Christian life. There’s no room for vanity and pride. A desire for attention and glory and personal gain, is not what characterizes a follower of Christ. Those who place the focus on themselves – their wants and their needs – are not placing the focus where it belongs, and that’s on Jesus and His will. Everything we do and say is to be for the purpose of bringing glory to Christ. As Christians, we’re to give Him the highest place of honor in our lives, which always gives honor to other people. For the Christian life is a selfless life. Our purpose in life is never about ourselves, but always about serving the purposes of Christ. We’re not to seek to advance ourselves, but rather, we’re to seek to advance the Kingdom of Christ, both corporately in the context of the local assembly, and in our own personal lives. Such a life always has the spiritual and material needs of others in view. Corporately, we can only do that when we’re walking in selfless harmony with one another.
As Christians, we’re to yield to others. We’re to place others ahead of ourselves. In the Christian community, everything is to be done for the good of the whole. If everyone is living according to the same mindset and the same purpose, the focus will always be on the will of God and the welfare of others. This way everyone’s needs will be met, and the purposes of God will be accomplished. This is why it’s so important for all of us to be involved in a good local church. As the body of Christ, we’re to live and function in community. We cannot accomplish the will of God or find His purpose for our lives, apart from the local assembly of believers.
There is peace and harmony when we work together side by side in our service to Christ. Things only get out of whack when people become focused on themselves and what they want. This relates to our motives. Even though someone may appear to be making the right decisions, their motives may be completely selfish. Some people are always looking for ways to benefit themselves. It’s amazing how cooperative people are when they think it can work in their favor somehow. But that’s not the way a faithful follower of Christ thinks.
“be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” (vs. 3)
We must allow our heart to always be moved to value others more than we do our own selves. That’s how we accomplish the will of God in the local assembly, and in the world. That’s also the only way we experience personal fulfillment in life. A self-centered life is a shallow life, and can never satisfy the true longings of our hearts.
In serving others, we’re to recognize the gifts and abilities that God has given to us, and always use them for His glory. Our attitude is always to be one of humble gratitude as we serve, realizing that we are who we are only by the grace of God. That means we’re to recognize the worth and contributions of others, realizing that we all have value, that we all have a purpose in carrying out God’s will. Thus we see that selfless serving involves both whom we serve and whom we serve with.
Many people feel unimportant and useless. It’s up to each of us to make sure that everyone in the body of Christ understands their importance, that all of us have an important role to fulfill in furthering God’s work. That means diverting attention away from ourselves, and giving proper recognition to the the faithful service of others. In other words, we’re to maximize the importance of others, while minimizing our own. We’re not “more important” than anyone. It’s only in Christ that we are anybody at all, and it’s only by God’s grace that we are gifted the way we are. People are not to be evaluated and elevated because of how we view their gifting, but to treat everyone with equality as we serve Christ together. Everyone has an important role to fulfill.
Our value is not according to social status or education or how much money we have or how good we are in sports or how good looking we are. We’re not to value ourselves or others in those terms, for that is the value system of the world. We have our value in Christ, and in Him alone. We’re to be spiritually minded. We’re to be biblically minded. Again, we don’t have the same value system the world has, nor are we to live as though we do. That’s a trap, and if we allow ourselves to get drawn into that kind of thinking, the result will be the pursuit of selfish gain, which can never meet the needs of others or accomplish the purposes of Christ.
We’re to set aside our self-centered ways for the purpose of harmony among ourselves, which in turn accomplishes the will of God. The kind of harmony Paul is talking about in this passage is what brings glory to Christ. It’s what allows us to keep the focus where it belongs — spreading His message to a needy world.
4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.
While we’re not to live self-centered lives, it’s ok to have our own interests. However, our interests are to take a back seat to the interests of others. We should never allow our own interests to create conflict with others. As we’ve been learning, we’re to put others ahead of ourselves. Imagine if everyone in our churches lived according to that rule. Imagine if every married couple and family lived according to that rule. Instead of disharmony because of a self-centered focus, there would be disharmony because of everyone insisting on others having their way! But seriously, there’s to be a balance between our own interests and the interests of others. We’re to be gracious toward one another, and obviously, when it comes to two choices, someone has to give in. Knowing which way to go comes through a close walk with the Lord and the wisdom He provides.
We’ll never regret living a life that puts the welfare of others ahead of our own, but misplaced values and priorities will always result in a shallow and unfulfilled life. Indeed, there’s great reward in a life that is focused on meeting the needs and desires of others, but there’s always consequences in living for selfish gain; eventually it catches up to you. A life of self-sacrifice is in reality a life of true gain — both in this life and in the next.
If you’re not already in a good church, one that is Christ-centered and Word-Centered, then I encourage you to find one and begin learning how to live according to the value system that we have in Christ. That’s where we find our true selves; that’s where we find true contentment and peace in life.