“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” – Philippians 2:4
The Bible is primarily a book about God. This may seem like a simple statement, but failing to grasp it can result in profound difficulties. When we open the pages of Scripture, we should be on the lookout for God. We should be asking questions like, what does this text teach me about God’s character, actions, and instructions? As we view the Bible through the lens of who God is, we better understand His great love for us as well as the role He desires for us to play in His redemptive story.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes from prison that it brings him great joy to hear that the gospel continues to advance as God’s people live in a way that sets them apart from the unbelieving world. He urges the Philippians to trust in God’s Spirit to sustain them, to pursue unity, and to consider the interests of others above their own. Paul directs their attention to the ultimate example of sacrificial service—Jesus himself. Jesus was equal to God in authority, yet He humbled himself by first taking on a human body and then allowing that body to be nailed to a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Rather than proclaim His rightful supremacy, Jesus looked to the interest of a lost and perishing humanity, and willingly laid down His life. Christ’s sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection became the means through which God extended eternal life to all who would trust in Him by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
For most of us serving others won’t mean physically laying down our lives. However, for all of us it will often mean dying to our own comforts, preferences, and conveniences. As Christians, we are instructed to grow in Christlikeness. The best way for us to do that is by studying the Bible to better understand how Christ cared for people, and then consider how we can serve and support others. In her book Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin, says it this way, “We must make a study of our God: what he loves, what he hates, how he speaks and acts. We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned. We must make a study of him if we want to become like him. We must seek his face.” Each time we open the Scriptures, let’s be women who allow God’s extravagant love toward us to motivate us to consider the interests of others above our own (1 John 4:10-11).
Are you living in a way that considers others? Or are you struggling with rivalry or pride? Ask God to help you shift your focus from selfish-living to selfless-giving. One way to begin to live other-focused is to find out how the people in your life receive love (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman):
Acts of service: send a meal to someone, offer to help them with a chore or task, sign up for Providence’s CityServe
Gift giving: spontaneously send flowers, chocolate, a favorite item, or everyday necessities
Words of affirmation: write a kind card, pray for someone and send them a text of that prayer, compliment someone unprompted
Physical touch: hug, pat on the back, hand on their shoulder
Quality time: grab coffee, go for a walk together, ask about their day, share what you are learning about God, be a listening ear to that friend who is going through a difficult season
Father God, help us to love and serve others as you have loved and served us. Fill our minds with your truth and our hearts with your compassion. Stir our affections for lost people. Open our mouths to share the hope of Christ and our faith with others. Remind us that we were saved by grace through faith. Guard our hearts against pride and arrogance. Teach us to follow Christ’s example of humility and service. We trust you to accomplish your work in the world and thank you for inviting us to participate in it. Amen.