Commentary on Philippians, 2:3-4 (Selfless Living)

Philippians 2:3-4

“1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion,
“2 make my joy full, that you be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3 Do nothing for selfish gain or through vanity, but in humility of mind regard one another more highly than yourselves;”

“selfish gain”  (Gr. eritheia – 2052)

Selfish ambition, selfishness, rivalry, selfish purposes, faction.

Everything is done for the purpose of selfish gain or self-promotion. Characterized by a contentious spirit and rivalry. Party strife.

“vanity”  (Gr. kenodoxia – 2754)

Only here in the New Testament.

Vain-glory, empty pride, empty conceit.

An empty or hollow opinion of oneself, highly exaggerated self-view. Seeks personal glory.

“more highly”  (Gr. huperecho – 5242)

Better than, more important, more significant.

To be above, to be superior, to surpass, surpassing worth, to be better than.

The only way for us to be “of the same mind, have the same love, to be of one accord, of one mind” (verse 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 about others. There is no room for vanity and pride. A desire for attention and personal glory is not what characterizes a believer. Those who desire praise are not placing the focus where it belongs, and that’s on Jesus. Everything we do and say is to be for His glory. That’s what is to motivate everything we do in life. We must never lose sight of our purpose in life, and that’s to advance the Kingdom of Christ. We can only do that when we’re walking in selfless harmony with one another.

Furthermore, 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 welfare of others, thus, everyone’s needs will be met.

In addition, there will peace and harmony as we work together side by side in our service to Christ. Things only get out of wack when people are focused on themselves and what they want. This relates to our motives, as well. 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 realize it can work in their favor somehow. But that’s not the way a faithful follower of Christ thinks.

“regard one another more highly than yourselves”

When thinking more highly of others than we do of ourselves, we must keep everything in proper perspective. We’re to recognize the gifts and abilities that God has given to us, but our attitude is always to be one of humble gratitude, realizing that we are who we are only by the grace of God. We’re to recognize the worth and contributions of others.

Some translations read “regarding others as more important (or better) than ourselves.” So many people feel useless and unimportant. 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. That means placing the importance and value of others ahead of our own. In other words, we’re to maximize the importance of others, while minimizing our own. We’re not “better” 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 gifts, but to treat everyone with equality.

Our value is not according to social status or education or how much money we have or how good we are in sports or according to how good looking we are. We’re not to value ourselves in those terms, nor others. Our value is totally according to who we are in Christ. We’re to be spiritually minded, biblically minded. 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 leads to “rivalry” and “strife” and “factions.”

We’re to set aside our self-centered ways for the purpose of harmony among ourselves. The kind of harmony Paul is talking about here is what brings glory to Christ. It’s what allows us to keep the focus where it belongs – advancing God’s kingdom.

“4 each of you looking not only to your own interests, but each of you also to the interests of others.”

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 already stated, we’re to put others ahead of ourselves. Imagine if everyone lived according to that rule. Imagine if every married couple 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 to 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, through the sensitivity and wisdom He provides.