“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Philippians 2:3
This was the
first scripture I ever attempted to commit to memory, verse and reference. My strategy included writing it on a partial
piece of poster board, illustrating each word of the verse with an image for
emphasis. “Strife” was an angry face,
“vainglory” a mirror, “lowliness” a stick figure doing the limbo. Think of it as an emoticon for each word, in
a world where emoticons didn’t exist. In
college, I had this poster mounted on the wall opposite the light switch in the
narrow passage of my dorm room’s entrance.
I can see it now.
the fact that this verse rolls off my tongue better than any other scripture besides
John 3:16, it has perpetually been the message of conviction whispered to me most
often by the Holy Spirit for the past 23 years. Twenty-three years and
counting, I have been trying to assimilate it into my character with
substantial success and frequent failure.
of this verse is that it has segments.
You can cut it into three parts and until all three parts come naturally
to you, it hasn’t succeeded in changing you to the fullest extent it
applies. I guess that’s why it is taking
me so long to absorb. Take one step
forward, you still have two steps to go.
Or in my case, take two steps forward and still have one giant leap
miles long to go. Will I ever get there?
declares, let NOTHING be done through STRIFE.
put a period on that and make it a complete statement. God tells us when you are angry or resentful
to put the brakes on your actions. You
DO NOT have permission to act on it. “So
how am I supposed to respond?” you ask.
Well, you don’t respond. You sit
on it. You sleep on it. You vent to God about your hurt. You cry out for help. You tolerate it and you envision Jesus, His
tolerance, His reaction to strife. It
puts your offense into perspective. You let
God work on your heart. You aren’t going to get permission from Him to do anything
motivated by strife so don’t give yourself permission either. Let Him tell you what to do with that
NOTHING be done through VAINGLORY.
there goes the selfie culture. What good
has vanity ever accomplished? It is an embarrassment
to the vain and distasteful to witnesses. If God forbids actions motivated by vanity, or
attention-seeking, then check yourself.
You DO NOT have permission to do it. The verse explicitly states, “Nothing”.
we reach the crux of the message.
continues, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other
BETTER than themselves. The scripture effectively gives us “Don’t do”,
“Don’t do”, and “Do do” directives.
purpose of not acting out of strife and not acting out in vain glory is to
perfect a lowly state of mind. To be rid
of pride. But how? By constantly esteeming others better than
yourself. The technique works in reverse
as well. If you are struggling with how
to change your esteem for another person, start by exercising the don’t do’s. God will aid your change of perspective as
you work on restraining your actions.
the “Do” step is so challenging that you must first figure out why other people
seem to be at the center of all your difficulties. In his book, “The Sense of the Presence of
God”, John Baille expresses, “I may do my best to
ignore the claim my neighbor makes on me, as I fear I often do. I may act
toward him as if he were merely a part of the world in which I dispose and not
another disposer of it; merely within the circle of my own dominion and not
another centre of it. I may treat him
not as a person but as a thing, or, as Kant would way, not an end in himself
but as a means to my own ends.”
quote caught my attention from both the perspective of the speaker and the perspective
of the neighbor. From the perspective of
the speaker: When am I treating others
as the means to my own ends? Since my
neighbor is equal in the eyes of God, equally bought with the blood of Jesus,
is he of equal merit as myself in my own eyes?
If he is not, then I must confess this sin and rethink my perspective of
him. I must allow God to change my heart
and mind. I must welcome opportunities to exercise actions contrary to my
previously erred behavior.
From the perspective
of the neighbor: Is my neighbor (or
co-worker, or classmate) treating me as the means to her own ends? Does he trample me as if I am disposable in
his universe? If he isn’t a believer in
Christ, then he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit working in him to show him any
other way. He is merely serving his
defensive instincts. At least I can
understand why strife keeps flaring up between us. I also acknowledge my obligation to treat him
as better than myself, according to the guidance of Philippians 2:3, which proceeds
toward the greater responsibility of advocacy in verse four.
2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
I am not
only obliged to be a good steward of the resources God has entrusted to me, but
I am also obliged to be invested in my neighbor’s best interests as well,
regardless of his or her treatment of me.
Baille’s insight helps make this responsibility a little more palatable. He states, “My
concern must not be merely for his [my neighbor’s] desires, but for what is right in his desires; not merely for his
desires but for his good; not merely
for what is desired by him but for
what, because it is good in itself,
is good for him . . . they [others] embody
for me, in my encounter with them, something greater than themselves, an
intrinsic right and a universal good.”
quote casts interpersonal relations into a larger field of view. It presents why treating others better than
yourself is worth your personal investment.
We should feel empowered to celebrate anyone’s happiness, achievements,
prosperity, stability, merits, strengths, and talents because
all these are good and right in themselves!
I don’t have to be a person’s biggest fan to support the things they are
doing right in their lives.
neighbor has an intrinsic right to be here.
God has a purpose for his life and desires an ultimate good for him;
therefore, so should I. Because God loves and values him, I am
presented the opportunity to manifest God’s love and prove this value to him. The result of Philippians 2:3-4 is really all
about my neighbor’s experience with me. My aspiration is to become lowly of mind. If my day can be spent valuing the interests
of others while performing all my responsibilities to the glory of God, then I
years ago I struggled with hard feelings toward a co-worker. I privately relished the opportunity for her
reliance on my work to become known to management. I spoke to God about this nasty attitude
brewing within me. He whispered,
“She doesn’t have to fall for you to rise.”
The climate felt as if it was either her or me, but it wasn’t. So, I began to pray for her
best and the good she could acquire from the situation we shared. God answered
my prayer; she was spared a public reveal and I was compensated for my
Forbes said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats
those who can do nothing for him.”
agree with Mr. Forbes, personally I find taking second place among my family and close friends harder because of our history, my
expectations, wants, and needs. I don’t expect,
want, or need anything from a stranger, so it is easy for me to be generous
with my gestures and kindnesses. But those I interact with on a daily basis
have access to stock or deplete my emotional reservoirs; therefore, the stakes
are higher. Voluntarily relinquishing the
refill on my emotional reservoir is a tall order for me. I have a lot of room to grow here.
while playing the mediator in someone else’s conflict, the following
words burst out of my mouth, “Humble people don’t get offended. YOU are the problem!” This statement applied to every person
involved. The message rang true in the
ears of all hearers and brought the argument to an end.
people don’t get offended” has returned to my mind on several occasions since
then when I have been offended. I have to
admit, I wasn’t being humble in those instances. When we truly embody a humble spirit,
offenses cease to be offenses, but are instead opportunities to treat others
better than ourselves.
Universal good is being accomplished every day and all of our classmates, co-workers, customers, even the strangers we come in contact with are involved in it. We have the opportunity to aid this world in looking and acting more like God intended it to be. This begins with me doing nothing motivated by strife, doing nothing motivated by vainglory, esteeming others better than myself, and advocating for the best interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 covers
all circumstances and all relationships.
I guess that’s why it takes a lifetime to be made permanent.