“Do nothing from rivalry or arrogance, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3
What a strange charge is given to Christians from the heart of the wise Apostle Paul. He instructs us all when he tells the church at Philippi not to interact with one another in rivalry and arrogance. We have to be told to live in humility with one another as we choose to prioritize the well being of others above our own self-interests. This is clear evidence that our salvation does not immediately produce in us a complete maturity, and nowhere will this be more evident than in the arena of our interactions with each other. Paul addresses our tendency to be aggressive and assertive when we come to a crossroads with one another. He speaks of this tendency toward rivalry – like two teams on opposite sides of the field who each have their own playbooks, who may only proclaim victory if they soundly defeat the opposition. In rivalry, only one can win so there is (of necessity) a desire to fully eliminate the competition. Paul tells us to never let that kind of attitude infiltrate our hearts concerning one another in God’s family. We are not only on the same team, we are part of the same family, and Father does not win if the children oppose one another. Paul also indicates that there is the danger of a more passive form of this kind of attitude; he calls it arrogance. This is the dismissive and disassociating tendency in us to care so little for others that they are not even valued enough to be seen as a rival. We simply turn up our noses and walk away from them to leave them on their own. Arrogance authorizes you to not care about others because they, in your mind, do not rise to the level of meriting your concern. In both rivalry and arrogance, we are guilty of viewing ourselves through that old carnival fun-house mirror, which makes us appear much larger than we actually are.
Pride always distorts our view of ourselves.
Paul punctuates the remedy for this by calling us to humble our hearts, and to initiate a shift in the way we view ourselves and others. He knows that if we will lower ourselves in humility, others will instantly appear larger to us. We will be empowered to see them as can’t-miss targets of our love and service. We are small when we bow in grace and so much better positioned to make a difference in the lives of others. It is difficult for anyone to be gracious while strutting. When you are puffed up in pride, your chest of personal reputation reaches people before your hands of humble service can get to them. Big people wish to cast large shadows, and it brings a coolness and sharp edge to relationships. Paul exhorts us to make ourselves small and to see what others need as being more essential in the moment than what we need. Doing this is not a once-upon-a-time task but, rather, a manner of continual living. It is a purposeful reduction of you by you. If we think this is an unwise, impractical and risky move then we should more accurately conclude that it is actually only one of those three. Unwise? Impossible, for Jesus Christ did exactly this. Impractical? That also is not true, for how will we serve others if we fight for the position of being the master? Yet let us acknowledge that humbling yourself is indeed a risky endeavor. Vulnerability is always associated with a cost. To love and serve others requires a willingness to risk it.
Some will reject your desire to love and serve them. Do it anyway.
Some will take full advantage of your humility and wipe their proud feet upon you. Lay down anyway.
Some will accuse you of being foolish and wasting your life as you serve others instead of yourself. Continue on anyway, knowing that the One who evaluates you in the end will be pleased.
Yes, you will risk much but it is nothing to compare with your promised return. A life of self-service is the equivalent of a caterpillar so loving his cocoon that he never emerges as the butterfly. The cocoon is safe and warm and predictable… but it is meant for a worm. The butterfly was meant for greater things which can never be achieved in the tight wrappings of the worm’s safe-place. Break out of the cocoon of self and find the delight your God has offered you in serving others. That is what He has done for the entire history of humanity. He loves to count our needs more significant than we might understand. This is why Jesus came. This is why He lived for us. Herein is the purpose of His death and resurrection – that He might serve us and grace us with the unspeakable gift of redemption. He is not only our example, He is our power to do the same for others. Serve one another, friends. It is the only way to partner with Jesus throughout this life.