Philippians 2:1-13 (NRSV)
1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
In the play The Cocktail Party, T.S. Eliot writes,
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm-but the harm does not interest them. They do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
Every church needs interested and committed people. At Clemmons, we have hundreds of faithful servants who use their gifts for good. In most cases, if I asked these persons about their work in the Body of Christ or thanked them, they would probably respond, “I’m glad to do it,” or “God has called me to this task and I’m grateful that I can serve.”
Paul seems to imply that as good as things are in Philippi, they could be better. He says that his joy will be complete when everyone begins to look out for the other more than for themselves. Paul is pointing out the age old problem of self-interest. It happens in the world and the church as well. Apparently the well-being and spiritual maturity of the Philippian church was in jeopardy because of those who felt important and special, who thought their ministry was more important than someone else’s ministry. Paul makes it clear that an over-inflated ego among some causes the individual and the corporate Body problems.
Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” It’s quite flattering,”replied Sir Winston, “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that, if instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big!”
Paul reminds us that while we are important because we are a part of God’s creation, we are not more important than anyone else. Paul’s example is Jesus:
Though Christ was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.
In that statement, we find the model for a Christian life. Paul doesn’t give us this passage so we can just remember who Christ was. Rather, Paul wants us to allow the memory of Jesus to shape who we are and to allow that memory to help us shape others. To those who feel important, Paul says, “You know what the mind of Christ was-emptied, humbled, obedient. Now let that same mind be in you.” Think about it.