“Let each esteem others better than themselves” (Paul, the Apostle).
Really? What are you talking about?
If I could have a face-to-face with Paul regarding this admonition of Philippians 2:3, I think my part would begin something like this:
Paul, let me remind you who you are for a brief moment. Your own testimony reminds us of your background as a Hebrew among Hebrews, a Pharisee, and blameless concerning the law. From reading your history, writings, and other extra-biblical materials about you, I’m both impressed and intimidated.
How on earth can a man with the raw intelligence, formal education, and confidence that you go forward in, provide such counsel to “esteem others better than” ourselves? Has this always been your practice?
Of course, I can’t actually have such a heart-to-heart with the legendary Apostle to the Gentiles. However, I am sure that he’d tell me that such humility had not always been the inclination of his life.
The majority of the human race does not naturally think of others as “better than” themselves. It is only through Christ, that we can and we should.
Check out the rest of this strong scripture. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
“Nothing!” I mean, seriously? Perhaps this means nothing as in very little in comparison to the selfish things in life? Reviewing the original word used for nothing, research points to the connotation of not a possibility. Literally, the Greek word means “not even one.” How can we possibly obtain such a lofty goal?
It’s a call to selflessness. So the goal must be to get self totally out of the way. To get to the place of “nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done,” self must die. In other doctrinal writings, Paul teaches us to accept that fate as already accomplished. When addressing the Romans he said “reckon” (consider or count it as done) yourself to already be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Give Romans 6 a fresh reading.
There is a better question for Christians to ask. How can we who are dead to sin continue any longer therein? We must consider ourselves as slaves to righteousness, as servants to doing the right thing (click to tweet).
The context of this challenging verse reminds me of more. The church in Philippi was a good church, but nonetheless, this was not a perfect congregation. There was division present and Paul would address it because that’s not the kind of math that God desires for His Church. First, though, there was this call to unity through humility.
Paul would go on to remind the Philippian believers of their citizenship. You see, Philippi was a Roman colony in the midst of a vastly non-Roman area. Its residents held Roman citizenship, which was to be prized. Roman citizenship was considered of highest caliber and character. To provoke the best behavior of a Philippian you simply reminded them of their Roman citizenship.
Paul went to the highest step when he said, “For our citizenship is in Heaven…” (3:20). Though we are inhabitants of earth and citizens of our individual countries, we must remember that our highest citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. And the chief example given by our King is His humility.
Therefore, while colonizing for Him, His subjects must act in accordance with the humility of the One who emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, and died on the cross for us to become citizens of His realm.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5).
Have you done the math yet? Have you counted others as better than yourself? Yes, this also means I’m not better than you and that’s okay. In God’s Kingdom, less is more from the perspective that less of me means that I can have more of Him. Having more of the One who is greater than, this should be our discipleship focus.
Empowered by the King who is greater than all, I can “esteem others as better than” myself and be content to serve His will for my life.
If you want to add some clarity to this heartfelt challenge, think on these paraphrased renderings of Philippians 2:1-4.
It’s all about our heart’s desire. If our heart’s desire really is for the King and His Kingdom, then we will seek to do what is best for the future of the whole colony on Earth (the universal, world-wide Church). Others might misjudge you, but the King knows how He has directed you. He will reward you and take care of you accordingly.