A verbal jab was thrown and knocked another square in the jaw. The one who threw it wanted to get a laugh from those around you all and certainly achieved it…at the other person’s expense! Then, you looked at the one on the receiving end of the jab. She may have been laughing along to show she could take it, or maybe the hurt was expressed all over her face. Either way, she was the recipient of what Paul was referring to in Philippians 2:23 as “selfish ambition.”
“Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves.”
Philippians 2:3 GNT
Ambition…A lot of times we look at this word as a positive thing. It’s something that drives us. It’s the strong desire to energetically work hard at something in order to persuade someone…to persuade them that we’re more important, we’re funny and should be accepted, we’re the one for the job, the one who deserves the raise, the one who should be elected, honored, rewarded, and/or valued…The attention we, ourselves, seek feels justified; getting a step ahead of someone else is warranted, in our eyes. “Didn’t you see all that I’ve done?” “Haven’t you seen what I’ve had to go through to get here?” However, there are times when language is manipulated in order to deceive others to have the same view as we do or to give us the upper hand. Sometimes, actions are purely entertainment…entertainment with no values. Sometimes, our biases put a film on our glasses and keep us from seeing clearly. Other times, we make up ideas, views, reactions, or experiences just to fit in or gain something we crave.
Paul instructed the believers in Philippi to refrain from doing anything that feeds our bodies above everything else, with no care of what destruction or pain it causes along the way. By “selfish ambition,” he’s referring to our desires, our body’s appetite for our physical needs…anything that rivals “us.” It’s pretty easy to stoop low and throw punches below the waist in order to win, but Paul teaches that instead of putting ourselves,our gain, ahead of others (including God and His will for us) or having a kind of pride that has no substance (no backing to it), we should set our minds on being humble.
Now, if we’re like most people in the circle of believers, we’d probably say, “I don’t do that! Of course, I look out for others!” So, maybe we don’t weasel our way to get ahead or dance on others when they’re down, but have we ever said something like:
“I’m so busy with everything I’m signed up for at church! It’d be really nice if ______ would help out every now and then!”
“Did you see _______’s Facebook post/page?!? I wouldn’t post that!”
“That coach is a joke! I could never be a coach, but I could do better than that!?”
One thing that stuck out to me, when digging into this verse, is that “better” literally means to hold someone up, to view them as superior. Mmmmm. Does that hit you, too? So often, we hold a view that we are better than them…that we are superior! Isn’t this mindset a cure for so much of the hate that’s going around these days?
Another thing that hit me was what I didn’t see verbalized in any of the translations I looked at…that “considering,” “regarding,” or “esteeming” is, actually, being a person in authority, leading the way. We are ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20); we have been given the authority to represent Christ and His message! People look to us as ones who know about Him, who know the Way. So, how are we leading others in that Way…to Him? Are we leading well? I know I need to consistently think before I speak; it’s so easy to speak out of emotions or feelings. Thinking first takes a lot of discipline, thought, effort, and intentionality, but it’s what’s required of us in order to humbly lead others well.
I have to brag on my hubby a minute…The other day, he was in a group of leaders where members started verbally “bashing” someone he knows in authority. He stepped in and reminded them to “stay positive” and focus on the job at hand. Every single one of them took notice of his response and leadership, and every one of them changed their verbiage off of the person and onto the task. I was (and am) so proud of him!
Let’s stay focused on the “job” at hand and reign ourselves in! Have the courage to be authentic, stand out from the crowd, and raise others (in our minds) higher than ourselves! Little do we know how much of an impact we can make on those around us and what changes we can make, as we lead with humility, integrity, and selflessness. A lot of conversations we have will look a LOT different!
It makes me so sad to say that I haven't worked on the Bible study in two months! Since school has started, and I have one kiddo at home in an online academy, I find quiet time to dig in extremely challenging. Please pray over this with me...