“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”—Philippians 2:3 (NKJV)
As Paul’s thought process continues to come together in his advice and instructions to the Philippians, today’s verse builds off of the previous set of verses and takes the idea even deeper. If as believers, we’ve truly been impacted and changed by Christ, not only will we be united with our brothers and sisters, but we’ll also put others first! In no uncertain terms, he is saying that pride puts self first, but humility puts God and others first.
For humans, this is a foreign, unnatural concept. Consider how a parent doesn’t have to teach a baby to be selfish. It comes along very naturally! One of the first words a baby learns and repeats a lot is “mine!” They learn that word so easily, and they know exactly what it means and when to use it. On the other hand, children have to be taught to share, be considerate, and think of others first.
This inclination has been part of our DNA since man first sinned. You see, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve put themselves first. It was all about what they wanted. They wanted to be like God. They wanted to have knowledge they didn’t have. In that moment, they didn’t consider the possible consequences of disobeying God, even though they were clearly told that they would die.
Pride puts your needs and your wants above anyone else’s. Adam and Eve’s decision was based on, as Paul called it here in Philippians, selfish ambition. It was conceit, which means excessive pride, vanity, arrogance, egotism. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, and that is a good thing. But eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil didn’t make them more like God. And that’s Satan’s great deception—to take something good and twist it. He told them that they would be like God if they ate from the tree, but what they forgot was that they were already like God. They were made in His image and likeness. And that’s what pride does. It gives us tunnel vision. It’s short sighted, it’s all consuming, and sadly, it devours everything in its path.
So, what’s the solution? “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” This sounds hard, especially because it’s not natural for us . . . and that’s the key. Humility isn’t natural; it’s supernatural. Andrew Murray once said, “Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.” It’s a work that the Spirit does in us. So, today, and every day, ask for a fresh dose of humility as the Lord Jesus takes center stage in your heart and life.
1. Looking closer at your relationship with God and your relationships with others, what effect has pride had in your life?
2. How would your day look different if you consistently made others the priority?