It is amazing when you think about what we think when we are right and the other person is wrong. It could be with sports, what product to purchase, who should run the country or any of a number of other issues. Now this has always been a problem, but it is compounded with the echo chambers created by social and mainstream media. The end results is that ignoring this huge blind spot in our lives only fragments my relationship with others that do not agree with me.
Paul touches on this point after connecting with the dear people and friends in the church of Philippi. Their mutual relationship allows Paul to challenge them to see something that they are missing, their own pride. He writes, “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.” (Philippians 2:3–4) These two words, selfish ambition and conceit are speaking of our pride. Selfish ambition speaks of when we abandon our Biblical morals to manipulate a situation for our own outcome. It is easy to see the selfish ambition in others when they use people to climb the ladder, but it is also a huge problem in our hearts too. I shared about how in the past I would purchase my wife expensive gifts with an ulterior motive. The motive is that she would reciprocate. Now, I am not against demonstrating love by gift giving, but what I want you to think about is the motives of our heart. My motive to do something nice for another person was really driven by the perceived gain for me.
The word for “conceit” is that attitude where we know what is right for everyone. I like to refer to it as thinking that I am the smartest person in the room and I also know what is best for everyone. This is nothing more than conceit. The challenge with this is since all of us are wired this way, the result is fragmented relationships. Conflict is always driven by differing expectations. This is true in all areas of our lives.
Paul’s admonition to “count others more significant than yourself” means that we need to work to understand who I am in relation to God’s Word. God reminds us through the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”(Jeremiah 17:9) The reality is that while we think we are right or know what is best we don’t apart from God’s Word. The Lord reminds us in the next verse, ““I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.””( Jeremiah 17:10)
Let me leave you with a couple suggestions for discovering the true you. I would encourage you to first be reading God’s Word each day. The Word becomes a mirror reflecting the real you. But reading the Word is only the first step. We must apply God’s truth to our lives. Try asking yourself, “How does this apply to me?” or “ How could I be better at this in my life?” Second, let me encourage you to honestly listen to others. The Lord not only speaks through His Word, but also others. It is said that there is “A kernel of truth in every criticism.” And last is Paul’s encouragement to consciously strive to “do good to others.” You will be surprised at the difference it makes when you make this passage your own.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson