When Pastor Scott led our study Sunday covering the well-known passage of Philippians 2:3-5, he offered insights regarding Paul’s God-inspired words to his brothers and sisters that furthered our understanding of relationships, especially in a practical sense.
The passage reads, “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 …”
Certainly the passage instructs us to act selflessly and put others first. Not an unfamiliar concept for believers in Christ. But Pastor Scott went deeper and revealed that verses 3 through 5 actually offer us the “secret ingredients for success in life.”
In fact, he said the verses are “strategic” not only in regard to how we conduct ourselves relationally, but also in the sense that they show the way toward the best long-term, even eternal, outcomes resulting from our relationships with others.
And even though the word doesn’t appear in the passage, Pastor Scott focused intensely on the idea of “honor” as a key action.
For instance, verse 3 reads “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Carrying out those instructions means treating others as special. Interestingly, Paul isn’t specific about WHO he means by “others” — which signals that he means EVERYBODY. And that potentially opens up a can of worms, wouldn’t you say? Or at least a big challenge! Because we all have folks in our lives we’d prefer not to treat as special. People we’d rather not honor, for a variety of reasons.
Pastor Scott’s illustration of demonstrating honor toward a police officer who tells pedestrians when they can and cannot cross the street was a great example of this idea. In other words, we don’t personally know the officer, but we show honor to the officer by virtue of the position the officer holds, and we therefore do as we’re instructed. Indeed, Pastor Scott emphasized that we can honor those we don’t necessarily respect since they haven’t necessarily earned it — and we do so by simply choosing to give that honor in humility. And such an action shows more about us than about those we honor. (Practical point: Pastor Scott also emphasized that the command for children to honor their parents appears frequently in Scripture, which tells us that learning to honor others starts when we’re young and in the home.)
Verse 4 tells us, “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Pastor Scott called attention to numerous examples Jesus set for us, as well as his teachings, that amplify this verse: Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, allowing the little children to come to him. The idea of doing more than what’s expected of us.
Jesus also is well-known for doing the unexpected, such as the time at the end of Luke 7 when a “sinful woman” did the unthinkable: She entered a Pharisee’s house where Jesus was eating and made a scene! She “brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”
So, how would you react if you were in Jesus’ position? You’d probably feel a little embarrassed, a bit put on the spot, and maybe you’d hope it would end quickly so everyone could just forget it ever happened. But that’s not who Jesus is. And he doesn’t let the moment slip away. In fact, he chides the Pharisee for ordering the woman gone from his house and instead shows compassion to her, and even tells her that her sins are forgiven. Talk about turning a situation on its head! But again, that’s who Jesus is, and that’s what he keeps doing, even today, in all of our lives.
Finally in verse 5 we have Paul telling us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus …” Remember the idea of “mindset” from our previous study regarding the earlier verses in chapter 2? It’s the same idea here, and it means having a mindset that’s based in a good attitude. It means taking everything Paul has just told his church to do, and sealing it inside us as a way of life. A daily goal.
It means doing away with grumbling, complaining, arguing. It means bringing joy into the room. And it all starts with showing honor to others and undergirding that effort with humility.
And let’s not forget that God showed honor to us first! How? Pastor Scott reminded us that the Lord created us in his own image, redeemed us, and adopted us into his family. He honored us even though we don’t deserve to be honored. God made a choice, a decision despite the fact that we are sinners. Christ died for us and rose again to save us from our sins, giving us an open door to eternal life — and all we have to do is accept the gift he’s offering. We haven’t earned God’s honor and never will; no “transaction” is possible, as we saw in last week’s study.
So wouldn’t you say that, in addition to honoring others and putting others first, we also should obey the command to honor God as well by how we relate to him and how conduct our lives? Let us this week look for ways we can carry out the instructions in verses 3 through 5, not only in regard to relationships with others but also in regard to our relationships with the Lord.