I am not insignificant. You are not insignificant.
Yet somehow, people read Philippians and think we are supposed to treat ourselves as such. And we wonder why people flee from Christianity.
Sure, come on in! Jesus loves you! Just remember that you are nothing and everyone else is something.
Here is the verse in question:
Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from rivalry 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.
Read it again. NOWHERE in that verse does it say that we are to treat ourselves as insignificant. It simply says that we are to treat others as MORE significant. That we are not to “keep up with the Joneses,” but we are to treat others with respect and dignity – to make them feel the love of Jesus.
Not only, but also.
The caution here is against self-centeredness – not against self-esteem. In fact, right there in the verse, it says not only to his own interests. That “not only” indicates that we are to look out for ourselves – just not ONLY for ourselves.
There are at least seven different instances in the New Testament that tell us it’s OK to love ourselves. Those verses say the words: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Simply put: you cannot fully love someone else unless you love yourself, first! You must love yourself so that you can share that love with others. You must care for yourself so that you can care for others. Surely, Jesus would never have told us to love others as ourselves if we were consumed with self-hatred. In that case, to “love thy neighbor” would actually mean to treat them with an absence of love, as we too often treat ourselves.
It’s either number 3 or 4 of the ten.
Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s Sunday, a day which is supposed to be a day of rest. A day we are supposed to keep holy. And yet, oftentimes the day is filled with over-righteousness and busyness disguised as holiness.
We go to Sunday School, then Church, then breakfast, then we take our kids here or there or we volunteer somewhere or we go to Bible study. But somewhere in the middle of all of that, we forgot to keep the day holy – to rest and spend time with the Lord. We forget that spending time with the Lord can mean staying home and listening to worship music and taking care of the home – the blessings that God gave us. We forget that taking care of our bodies and minds is not inherently selfish – it’s actually a necessary part of being a good steward of all God has given us (which, by the way, includes our bodies!)
Being selfish, self-centered, prideful, and haughty – that is what is sinful. Putting ourselves first to the detriment of others is when we have a problem. Simply taking time to rest and be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, whatever that may look like to each individual, is holy – and wholly necessary as a child of God.
This also extends beyond Sundays.
Think about some people and how they completely miss the part of being a Christian that requires us to be still. They are so completely consumed with “helpful” activities that I don’t think they even know why they are doing these things anymore. It’s as though they’re stashing good deeds in the “heaven bank” thinking that’s what it takes. In the meantime, their families miss them, and they’re so tired from doing all of the “good” things they do for others that they have no time to take care of the gifts God gave to them. They’re cranky and exhausted. But they’re “good.”
God says “Be still and know that I am God.” Read that again. You must BE STILL to know God. If you never take the time to stop and be still, then you cannot really know God. Realize that God doesn’t necessarily expect you to change the world – only your world. When you start by changing your world, it carries forward to the rest of the world. Be the best husband, wife, partner, mother, father, sibling, or child you can be – then you can bless others.
The Bible tells us over and over again that good works are part of being followers of Christ. The good deeds, however, aren’t what make us “born again,” the fact that we are followers of Christ leads us to WANT to do the good deeds in His name. Good deeds and doing God’s work doesn’t mean killing yourself to do it. God will give you assignments if you ask. Focus on the assignment He has given you. He will ﬁgure out the rest.
Look in the mirror, my friend…
It is not good deeds that ensure your path to heaven, it’s accepting the sacriﬁce of the living Son of God. Doing good for others is part of God’s will. It draws you closer to Him and teaches humility. But humility only comes when you don’t have to remind everyone all the time about the good deeds you’re doing. If most people who spend their lives killing themselves to do “good deeds” really took a minute to look inside their souls, they’d ﬁnd that the reason they do the good deeds isn’t purely unselﬁsh. Rather they enjoy being able to tell everyone how busy they are doing these great things. That isn’t humble – that’s prideful.
It’s your light that’s supposed to shine, not your neon sign.
The point here is not to dissuade you from serving the Lord or going to Church or Bible study or whatever. It’s to make you see that serving the Lord is often simple things, and often things that start at home. Maybe you need to take better care of your home. Maybe your ﬁnances are a mess, so you can’t bless anyone unless you get that together. Maybe your child is missing you because you are working too much. Think, pray, you will ﬁgure it out! Start inward, then the ripples will move outward.
Be sure that what you do is coming from a place of true selﬂessness and desire to serve the Lord, not from a place of hubris, over-righteousness, or worry about what others think. If you remain focused on the cross you won’t have any time or care to bother with what other people think about what you are doing.
I know it’s not easy – we all want some sense of validation; some sense of feeling accepted and loved by others. And Jesus even tells us to let our light shine. But that’s our light – not a giant billboard that says “LOOK WHAT I DID!” It’s the feeling people get when they are around us. Your light should shine in your attitude and joyfulness because you are serving the Lord. It’s in that light that you will know your significance.
When you serve Him, you are significant. The others you serve in his name are significant. Remember that, and treat everyone – yourself included – with that kind of Christ-centered love.
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