In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he gives a gospel-centred approach to our relationships and shows how selfishness is cured by understanding the only truly selfless person, Jesus, and his humility in going to the cross for our sins.
Philippians 2:3-8: “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.”
“Me”-centredness is everyone’s default mode of operation. And it’s an area of ongoing work and growth in my life. It’s one thing to know that because of the gospel, we esteem others better than ourselves. But what does it look like in practice? That’s what I often struggle with.
Last weekend we visited some friends who’ve recently joined the exodus out of Auckland. We saw a really helpful list on their fridge that lists 9 specific ways to esteem others better than yourself. I thought it was good enough to share here:
Specific ways to esteem others better than yourself
- Don’t assume that others have exactly the same evil motives as you find in your own heart (love “believes all things’, 1 Corinthians 13:7), but rather put the best possible interpretation on their actions.
- Look for those virtuous qualities in others that you know you are most in need of yourself. Then seek their help in acquiring those qualities.
- Don’t assume that your time, money, energy, thoughts, and opinions are more valuable than your neighbour’s.
- When making a decision, consider not only how that decision will affect your own interests, but also how it will affect the interests of others.
- Be alert not only to your own needs, but also to the needs of others.
- Demonstrate your high estimation of others by commending them for those qualities that are biblically worthy of praise.
- Guard your heart from developing a patter of critical, condemnatory, accusatory, judgemental thoughts about others. (Such thoughts make it very difficult, if not impossible, to esteem others better than yourself).
- Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Remind yourself often that God has given to you everything you have to be proud of and that He has often used others to get you where you are. Thank God and thank thouse whom He has used to bless you.
(from Pleasing People by Lou Priolo)
My favourite suggestion is 8 – how wonderful would it be if Christians were known for “never putting anyone down, except onto prayer lists” (as Don Carson once said about his dad).
The one that I find the hardest is 7. How about you?