Read Philippians 2:19-24.
“I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (vs.20-21)
Exactly what Paul was trying to convey with this statement is not perfectly clear; it leaves itself open to a variety of interpretations. In the words of M.R. Vincent, a Biblical scholar of years gone by: “… without more information a satisfactory explanation is impossible.”
However, this much is disturbingly clear – Paul understood selfishness to be problem quite common among the Christians he knew, particularly in Philippi at that time. What, selfishness could be a problem down at church? Why, who would have ever thought?
Selflessness was the drum Paul continually beat as he pounded out this letter to the Philippian Christians.
“… in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (2:3-4)
He then held up three examples for the church there to follow so as to grow into the selfless people they were called to be: (a) Jesus Christ, who “made himself nothing” and took on the role of a “servant” (2:5-11), (b) himself (Paul), who was continually pouring his life out (vs.17) in service to others (2:12-18) and (c) Timothy, who had a unique, genuine “concern” for the “welfare” of others (2:19-24).
Those Christians there weren’t the only ones who needed that message; we need it still today. We shouldn’t be surprised today, much less disillusioned, when we find selfishness present among Christians. The church is composed of only one kind of person – imperfect people. And yet, when we see remnants of our “old man of sin” still having his way with us and those around us, we should be horrified at his habits. We must not be complacent about his self-interest. Selfishness must not be coddled, but condemned. And no stronger condemnation can there be than for us to resolutely fasten our eyes on the examples of selflessness that walk among us. As we watch them, we learn from them and will, consciously and unconsciously, begin to imitate them. Selfishness will wither and die and selflessness will take root and flourish as we do so.
Yes, selfishness is still a common problem among people who wear the name of him who was selfless – Jesus. However, selflessness is something found among the saints, too. We know the sources of both selfishness and selflessness. May God grant us to discernment and wisdom, courage and discipline, to choose well between these two in all of our ways that touch the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our Father in heaven, help us, your children, to live, work and play well together. In Jesus’ name, send living examples of your ways to walk among us so as to show and tell us how to care to share with each other. Then, seeing and hearing this living, breathing examples of selflessness, may we resolve to become, and follow through to be, examples of such ourselves. Amen.