“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV)
In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul outlines a great way to live as Christians. We are encouraged to work together and live in unity, to be humble, and he references the example of Jesus and what He did for us. He came and gave His life for us, humbling Himself, and was obedient to what God asked Him to do, all for our good. Sounds a lot like esteeming others as better than ourselves! (Phil. 2:3)
Forget about “number one”
Many will tell us that we should look out for “number one,” ourselves, and that this will make us happy and more successful. However, this doesn’t make any sense even on the surface! If everyone is only looking out for himself, we have only “number one” looking out for us. But if we are all focused on one another and helping each other, there is a much larger group of people looking out for us! Verse 4 tells us, “do not look only to your own interests but also the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:4 ESV) What a wonderful image of the body of Christ!
The Spiritual Battles
Beyond this practical element, there are several battles being fought in the battlefield of our minds and in our hearts. If we can identify these and practice what Paul is talking about, it will transform our lives. It will also be a shining beacon of hope and life for those searching for God.
One of these battles is with Selfishness. As is mentioned in verse 3, the opposite of selfish ambition is to think of others as better than ourselves, or selflessness. If we can forget about ourselves, we can focus on those who, as believers, we are called to serve.
Another battle is with Pride. By making a habit of thinking about others first, following Jesus’ example of humility, and working toward unity as is mentioned in Philippians 2:2, we will grow closer in our walk with God. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV) As we think more highly of others, it will help whittle away at our pride.
Strife and Envy are also at play here. When we think that we are more important than others, and are looking to improve our personal situation, it makes us more likely to quarrel and be upset when things don’t seem to go our way. If, however, we are focused on others, we also win against strife and envy as there is less opportunity given to these. If we win these battles, it will bring unity.
Following Christ’s Example
Jesus emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, and then died for us. It is the ultimate example of esteeming others as more important than ourselves and being willing to lay our lives down for another. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Also in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)
Scripture also says to “Outdo ourselves in honoring one another” (Rom. 12:10 ESV) and encourages us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21 ESV) This is what we are called to do, but it is also a very rewarding way to live as we see God move through us to bless others.
We must forget about “number one” and start living for others.