Pastor's Corner: Striving for second place

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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 (NIV)

Many are anticipating the start of the 30th Olympics. Hundreds of athletes are assembling in London hoping to prove to the world and themselves that they are "number one." All too often we have seen to what extent they will go to sabotage their competitors to do just that.

Competition seems to be the key to success in our world. We have to ask ourselves, though, if worldliness is the way to live.

God, speaking through Paul to the Christians in Philippi, casts our expected behavior in a different light. Contrary to the world's mantra, it's not about us. Granted, the letter is addressed to those who are part of the Body of Christ, but the Scriptures make it clear that is where God wishes us all to be.

God, through Paul, is saying, "You have a problem -- here is the solution. The situation Paul addressed evidently was prompted by self-centeredness among certain Christians.

Nothing was to be done out of selfish ambition (v. 3). The same word (eritheian) appears in 1:17 to describe the attitude of those who opposed Paul. Without question such behavior is of the flesh and not the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:20, which uses the same word). Vain conceit, meaning "empty glory," was probably the root cause of their selfish ambition.

The two negatives are followed by a positive exhortation: in humility consider others better than yourselves. But, a word of contrast, introduces these words. Humility before God and man is a virtue every child of God needs to strive for. A spirit of pride in human relations indicates a lack of humility before God. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty.)

To emphasize this concept, God has Paul point the reader to the example of Christ Jesus. The aim is humility and obedience. Jesus exhibited both to the ultimate degree. We are to share Christ's attitude, so we insult God by putting ourselves first. Jesus humility an Absolute obedience were what led to exultation, so if we wish recognition we should pursue it by doing that which brings God glory.

We call ourselves Christ ones. Let's prove it by living like Christ.