Philippians: Consider Others

September 22, 2017

Phil 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Keep in mind that the context of this verse is pre-empted with Paul’s call to live worthy of the Gospel of Christ, which he qualifies with: “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Philippians 1:27). Paul’s lengthy and beautiful discourse on humility is a continuation of what it looks like to live worthy of the Gospel.

In reference to Philippians 2:3, Matt Chandler says, “Living a life worthy of the Gospel does not mean pretending to be perfect. Instead, it means having the humility to think of others as better than ourselves. It means putting self-concern aside to work together, realizing that we are all still in process. Let us have the grace of God for each other that He gave us in the overlooking of sins and the outpouring of unmerited love.”

So how do we “in humility regard others as better than ourselves?” This is easy to talk about and hard to do.

If we are truly to be able to do this, we first have to possess humility that is born out of knowing God. CS Lewis says about pride, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Not only do we have to know God, but we need to love and treasure Him. When we have been so gripped and captivated by His great and sacrificial love for us, we are filled with desire to love others in the same way. Furthermore, we have to be filled with His Spirit, for only the Spirit of God can produce the desire and power to love in this manner.

Next, we have to love and value ourselves. We can’t love others well if we don’t love ourselves. You can’t treat others as worthy and valuable if you don’t first see yourself as worthy and valuable. The basis for this love and valuing of ourselves is the truth that we are God’s beloved child created by Him in His image. Furthermore, He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. God uniquely and wonderfully knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), knows every hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30), cares for us, sustains us by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3), and delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17). Let us never over-correct for pride by having a loathing and low view of ourselves.

Paul isn’t advocating a culture of “despising yourself for the sake of others,” but rather of mutual concern and care, where each and all members of the community are looking out for each other. Paul is trying to cultivate a spirit of mutual self-sacrifice. A spirit of honoring others as beloved members of the family of God, with His love as the forerunner and motivation. Godly love is desiring God’s best in the life of another and eagerly pursuing it, even at great personal cost.