Devotion: October 22, 2021

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” 

On Thinking of Others as Better than Yourself

Our Bible text for this Sunday is from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, a faith-community he held in particular affection and regard.  He is writing to them from his prison in Rome, with a poignant awareness of his own weakness and the likelihood of his death.  In light of these things,  what Paul has to say about humility is both significant and compelling.

The Second Chapter begins with a powerful entreaty for unity among the Philippian believers.  Reading between the lines, this nascent Christian community may have been experiencing divisiveness and pride-of-place among its members. Paul’s admonition is clear: “Do nothing from strife or vain-glory but in humility count others as better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). John Calvin in commenting on this text  defines “strife” as getting awakened  “when everyone is prepared to maintain pertinaciously his own opinion, and when it has once begun to rage it rushes headlong…”  These words describe aptly the strife afflicting our nation today.

“Vain-glory” is the condition of being besotted with our own thinking, enamored with the inventions of our own minds.  It is characterized by vanity and conceit and it is fueled by selfish ambition.  Paul’s antidote for “vain-glory” is clear and incisive: “…in humility count others as better than yourselves.”  But how can we do that, when “others” may lack education, ability or achievement?  How can we do that when our estimate of others’ gifts and virtues falls somewhat short of our own? Must we regard all others as “better” than ourselves?

The key to achieving this lies in the virtue of humility itself.  It is revealed when we, without regard to others’ gifts or abilities, choose to esteem ourselves less than them.  Rejecting a false sense of superiority, we choose rather to consider our own God-given gifts in light of our many weaknesses.

These gifts were not given to us that we might feel complacent or entitled but that we might use them to humbly serve the common good.  The supreme example of this is how Jesus served us all through the double-humiliation of his incarnation and crucifixion.

In the world’s eyes, greatness is too often predicated on prestige and power, wealth and fame.  It is not so in the Kingdom.  In the Kingdom of Heaven, greatness is reserved for those who serve others, who respect others regardless of their gifts or abilities, and who seek to encourage and empower others at whatever cost to themselves.  Humility isn’t about being a doormat. But regarding others as better than yourself?  That is the true mark of leadership: of being a servant-leader after Christ’s own example.
And there’s nothing more glorious than that.

Blessings on you,
Pastor Clint

Scroll to Top