Our culture tends to be self-focused and self-absorbed.
We say things like “You have to look out for number one. Because if you don’t look out for number one, no one else will.” TV commercials constantly tell us what we need to make us happy. TV psychiatrists tell us we should love ourselves more and be sure to bolster our self-esteem. But when Jesus comes into our lives and rescues us from our sins, he begins to reorient our whole mindset about everything in life, including our tendency to be self-focused. So he tells us in Php 2:3-4:
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.
Selfish ambition and conceit (pride) tries to get more of this world for itself, tries to advance itself over others, always wants more. More admiration, more power, more possessions. But contrary to what the world says, selfish ambition won’t fulfill us, but is really the enemy of joy.
As believers in Jesus, we need to remember that we have all the riches of God in Christ. We have the encouragement, comfort, sympathy and affection of Jesus! We have the fellowship, comfort, guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to get ahead of others or get more than them. We don’t need to be admired more than others; we have Christ to encourage us. We don’t need to be loved more than others; we have the comfort of Christ’s love. So God says out of our fullness here’s what we should do:
in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
This doesn’t mean that everyone else is more significant than us, but that we should COUNT or CONSIDER them to be so. Think of them as more significant than ourselves. When we go to church or our fellowship group, we should think, These brothers and sisters of mine are SIGNIFICANT – they are important to God. I’m not going just for myself but for THEM. This mindset leads us to do what verse 4 says:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This doesn’t say don’t look to your own interests or that your interests are unimportant. It says “Let each of you look NOT ONLY to his own interests, BUT ALSO to the interests of others.” All of us have concerns. All of us go through tough times. All of us have prayer requests. So our mindset should be – I’m not just focused on me and my interests. I want to focus on others as well. I want to be concerned for them ALSO.
D.A. Carson says, “It is also very practical to make a habit of thinking and speaking of the interests of others rather than boring people by constantly dwelling on our own interests”
In other words TAKE AN INTEREST IN PEOPLE. Find out about them. When you first meet someone you don’t start with What’s your biggest struggle? You get to know them. You find out about where they work or what their major is. You might ask about their families or maybe about hobbies they enjoy. You may say, Mark I hate making small talk. But in church it’s not simply small talk. Eventually they may open up about a problem they’re having or a spiritual struggle that you can encourage them about. Romans 12:15 says:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Our Christian life is a shared life. We live this life with others. We’re not isolated individuals. We’re all part of Christ’s body. So what happens to you affects me. When you’re blessed, I’m blessed. When you suffer, I suffer. When I stub my toe, my whole body goes into action to comfort my toe. My arms send my hands down and my eyes direct them to the aching toe. My fingers grab my toe and massage it as my mouth cries, “Ow, ow, ow!”
You may say, Mark, I feel like no one cares for my soul. If that’s the case, I feel really bad for you. My advice would be – and I know this might be really challenging for some of you – but my advice would be for YOU to begin to try to care for the souls of others. Ask others how they are doing. Ask how you can pray for them. Because in MT 7:12 Jesus said:
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Do you want others to take an interest in you? Then take an interest in them. Do you want others to be compassionate to you? Then be compassionate toward them.
We can all be tempted to think about our church or fellowship group at times, “What am I getting out of this?” But our gatherings are not ONLY for what we personally get out of it, but they are for what we can do for others.
So I encourage you today to meditate on and thank Jesus for the riches you’ve received in him and look for ways to take an interest in others.