Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3–4 NASB)
Love builds up relationships; selfishness erodes relationships. No wonder Paul is so urgent in his appeal: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (Phil. 2:3 NASB).
But aren’t we born selfish? And if so, can we do anything about it? Can we get our eyes off of self? Or, better asked, can we get the little self out of our eyes? According to Scripture, we can.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind. (Phil. 2:1–2 NASB)
Paul’s sarcasm is thinly veiled. Is there any encouragement? Any consolation? Any fellowship? Then smile!
What’s the cure for selfishness?
Get your self out of your eye by getting your eye off your self. Quit staring at that little self, and focus on your great Savior.
A friend who is an Episcopalian minister explains the reason he closes his prayers with the sign of the cross. “The touching of my forehead and chest makes a capital ‘I.’ The gesture of touching first one shoulder, then the other, cuts the ‘I’ in half.”
Isn’t that a work of the Cross? A smaller “I” and a greater Christ? Don’t focus on yourself; focus on all that you have in Christ. Focus on the encouragement in Christ, the consolation of Christ, the love of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit, the affection and compassion of heaven.
If Christ becomes our focus, we won’t be like the physician in Arkansas. He misdiagnosed the patient. He declared the woman to be dead. The family was informed, and the husband was grief-stricken. Imagine the surprise of the nurse when she discovered that the woman was alive! “You better tell the family,” she urged the doctor.
The embarrassed physician phoned the husband and said, “I need to talk to you about the condition of your wife.”
“The condition of my wife?” he asked. “She’s dead.”
The doctor’s pride only allowed him to concede, “Well, she has seen a slight improvement.”
Slight improvement? Talk about an understatement! Lazarus is walking out of the tomb, and he calls that a “slight improvement”?
He was so concerned about his image that he missed an opportunity to celebrate. We laugh, but don’t we do the same? We’ve gone from cremation to celebration. We deserve a lava bath, but we’ve been given a pool of grace.
Yet to look at our faces you’d think our circumstances had made only a “slight improvement.” “How’s life?” someone asks. And we who’ve been resurrected from the dead say, “Well, things could be better.” Or “Couldn’t get a parking place.” Or “My parents won’t let me move to Hawaii.” Or “People won’t leave me alone so I can finish my sermon on selfishness.”
Honestly. We worry about acid rain in silver linings. Do you think Paul might like to have a word with us? Are you so focused on what you don’t have that you are blind to what you do? Have you received any encouragement? Any fellowship? Any consolation? Then don’t you have reason for joy?
Come. Come thirsty. Drink deeply from God’s goodness.
an eternal home no divorce can break.
Every mistake you’ve made is nailed to the tree.
A child of God—forever saved.
What you don’t have is much less than what you do
A Love Worth Giving:
Living in the Overflow of God’s Love
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2002) Max Lucado