“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)
Like verse 3, Philippians 2:4 continues to build upon the idea set forth by Paul in the first two verses, describing the positive effects that “being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” can have on the believer.
Here, the apostle tells us to “look out.” The Greek word is skopeó, where we get our English word scope. And as we know, to scope something out is to investigate, scan, or look at carefully. It implies seeking out and searching. It’s equivalent to fixing one’s (mind’s) eye on or directing one’s attention to. So when Paul says to “look out” here, he is telling the Philippians to seek (similar to Philippians 2:21). He’s instructing us to not only put others first in moments when a situation arises, but to intentionally, at all times, seek to put the good of others first, not just our own good. It speaks of a self-forgetting love, lifestyle, and mindset.
One thing that should also be noted is the structure of Paul’s instruction: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also” (emphasis added). By his phrasing here, and the use of “also,” we see that Paul did not outlaw or rail against all self-consciousness or self-love, nor did he call the believer selfish for looking out for their own needs. Paul understood that man has basic, fundamental needs that must be tended to, that man is both an individual being as well as a social one; he can consider his own needs lower than the needs of others, but he can’t ignore them.
This is an important lesson for us. In his book, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You, John Ortberg wrote, “A paradox of the soul is that it is incapable of satisfying itself, but it is also incapable of living without satisfaction. You were made for soul-satisfaction, but you will only ever find it in God.”
Always remember, as you look out for the needs of others, as you seek to humble yourself, don’t neglect your need for God or your relationship with Him. Do life with God, receive from His Word and His Spirit. This will actually enable you to be humble and put others first. It will enable you to care for others, because the Lord has taken care of you!
1. In what practical ways are you showing a genuine care for someone else?
2. How has your care for someone else affected your spiritual life and your love for God?