Considering Others’ Interests

We are going to be looking this morning at a command from Scripture. God is going to teach us practical ways that we can live among each other. I love the practicality of that, I like to know exactly what I’m to be doing. God has not been silent regarding how we should respond to Him, and how we’re to live in community with one another. At the same time, there are these foundational truths that we have to have, believe, and live in, in order to get to the practical things of life. If we don’t get Psalm 8, we aren’t going to live the commands. A rule book is no good, it doesn’t help. We have to understand Psalm 8 and Psalm 19, both of which we’ve heard from this morning. Do we believe this?

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:1-4)
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, (Psalm 19:1-2a)

We see a majestic God, a God of all creation, of the universe. He has looked upon us, and we see Him in the whole story of Scripture, God reaching down to man, sending His Son to die for our sins. If we don’t embrace the glory, majesty, and greatness of our God, and His work on the cross for our redemption and salvation, if we’re not living in that, embracing that, then we won’t respond in love according to the commands He gives us in Scripture. As we look at the specific do’s and don’ts of what God has for us, wants for us, and expects of us, we have to do it within the context of all of Scripture, understanding who God is and what He’s done for us.

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being 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 count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Verse 4 again, which is where we pick up this week: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The context of this verse is clear. Let me give it to you this way, as a way to recap some of what we have already learned together. What Paul is saying is that if you have been blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ, blessed by the Savior who owes you nothing, if you have received anything good from Him, from His storehouse of unlimited blessings, if you have been blessed by the One who can do just fine without you, and needs nothing from you, if you have been blessed by Him, if you have received from Him salvation, escape from eternal hell because of His willing, bloody sacrifice on the cross, if you have received abundant freedom in Him in this life and in the life to come, if you have been the recipient of His grace forever, His favor on you eternally, to be sin-free forever in heaven, if you have been blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ in these ways, if that is true for you, then Paul is saying, “Then do this: live in peace and unity with each other.” Because that is pleasing to Him, and that’s how we show our love for Him. How do we do this? Take our eyes off of ourselves, our preferences, our fleshly desires, our petty pet peeves, our self-indulged interests, taking our eyes off these things as a full-time endeavor, getting our eyes off of ourselves all the time and do what? Verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If you have been blessed by God in the ways we have seen, then respond by living in unity with each other, a unity based on the goal and practice of living according to God’s ways, His commands. That is our response to what all God in Christ has done for us.

And He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

With the blessings of God upon us there comes a fundamental transforming change in our minds, moving to our actions, in how we are to live before Him. And a great deal of this change, how it looks is, what is seen most often is, how we treat each other. We see that theme over and over in Scripture.

I love talking about marriage, teaching on marriage, and even doing weddings, because it gives the incredible opportunity to describe biblically what marriage is to be. Lots of people don’t know what marriage is, biblically. It is a picture of the gospel. The married couple, husband and wife, are to live in married life representing God. Representing the gospel in their marriage, a living, walking example of Christ and His church.

But it’s not just in marriage where we display the gospel and put Christ on display. We also represent Him to people around us in how we live among each other. Christian unity just screams out that there is a God who has put this together. People working side by side, loving, sacrificing, not consumed with self like the rest of the world, but loving Christ and looking out for each other’s needs. When that happens the world notices, neighbors notice, because it’s odd, it’s different, it’s not normal, it counters the pervasive, selfish ways of our culture.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” To do that, to do verse 4, we have to do verse 3, which says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

We talked about selfish ambition and conceit two Sundays ago. Selfish ambition is going after what is best for you, and conceit is thinking very highly of yourself, thinking that your thoughts and desires are superior to other people’s. It would be like if I thought I had it all together and that you were then by default inferior to me. God is saying that we have to bring ourselves down a couple of notches. Or a few notches. If in your mind you are way up here on the importance scale, you are only deceiving yourself. Probably no one else is deceived in that same way about you, it’s primarily deceiving yourself. 

You know, it has been interesting and insightful to me to learn something about this in a practical way. I mean this idea of not thinking so highly of ourselves, being conceited in our thinking. Every job I’ve had and that I have left, the company continued on just fine without me. Have you experienced that? Well, except one, but it had nothing to do with me. I mean, I started working at about 12 years old. Most of my adult life I’ve spent in the business world. This full-time pastoring is still new to me. I’ve done my job, contributed I think, but when I’m gone, well, probably after a few weeks, I’m a vague memory to that company. Even in ministry, I’ve found that if I am leading something and eventually hand it off to a new leader, what generally happens is the ministry improves. Fresh ideas and energy, new excitement from a new leader, and more productive, well-run ministry usually comes about.

We need to think rightly about our roles and our abilities and put off conceit.

Even as a husband, a father, a leader in my own home. I was talking with a man this last week about this…what happens when a father, a husband is taken home by the Lord? What about the wife, the mother, the children, who will care for them? Well, God will, He always has! He will continue to do that, maybe using the husband, but in his absence, God will do just fine.

We are instruments in God’s hands for specific works, right? Ephesians 2:10 teaches this. We do those works diligently, for His glory, out of a love for Him, and we are privileged to get to do His work, but we are only as capable as He allows, and the world, businesses, families, and churches will continue on when we are gone. I think this is a biblical attitude to have. We jump in full-speed, we do the works of the Lord, we live obedient lives to Him because we love Him, but we need to keep this in perspective of where we stand, that we not become conceited thinking that God or others simply cannot do without us. The Bible teaches that we are vapors. But as long as we, these vapors, are here, we serve the One who made us and gives us work to do. Don’t be fooled into conceit about yourself. This high view of self is so destructive in relationships, in ministry, in families, both inside the church and outside the church.

Some may say, “I would never think of myself that way.” I hope not, but let’s be honest, how often do we think, “You know, my ideas aren’t really very good, but my spouse, or my friend, or my child, now they have really good ideas. Their thinking is superior to mine!” No, it is usually, “My ways are best, because they are my ways!” And verse 4 says that we are to count others as more significant than ourselves, or more important than ourselves.

More significant or more important means to “excel, surpass, or be superior to.” Later in Philippians Paul uses this word to describe the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” He is speaking of the excellence and importance of such an awesome thing as knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what the word means. We are to think of others as supreme or as superior to ourselves in how we interact with them and treat them. Paul is working very hard here to just in very few words, sort of, put us in our rightful place. Especially rightfully in our place regarding our relationships with other people.

So if I am thinking before I have a conversation with you, that I am not to be selfishly ambitious as I converse with you, not to be going after what I think is best for me, and if I am not thinking highly of myself in regard to you, and if I am thinking that you are supreme and most important, if that is where I am going in my mind, then I am ready to live within the parameters of verse 4. If I go in with that attitude, then I’m ready for verse 4. If I’m not going in with the attitude of verse 3, then you can forget about verse 4, it’s not going to work. If I’m going in with verse 3, I am ready to look out for you and for your interests because I am not just full of myself.

There are at least two problems that we may face in the application of verse 4. One problem has to do with faith. And obedience to any of God’s Word requires faith on our part.

When Jesus commanded Peter to step out of the boat and onto the sea during a mighty storm to meet Him as He stood on the water, faith was required on Peter’s part. And we, as we read, we see great faith on Peter’s part. Peter looked at Jesus, heard the word, “Come,” from Jesus, and he stepped out of the boat, like a crazy man, and for a moment stood on the water. He didn’t just stand, he walked out to meet Jesus. Peter walked on the water to meet Jesus. Peter believed and Peter obeyed, and in his obedience he did the unimaginable, he walked on water. It took great faith. But you know the story. He then looked around, saw the storm, felt the ferocious winds, and became fearful and began to sink. He said, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Peter faltered in his obedience to God when he began to do what? To doubt. When he began to pay more attention to the storm than to Christ, he began to sink. When his sight took over, took over the faith that made him take that first step, he began to go down. This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, ”for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

God calls us to lives of obedience that require that we live, walk, that we go forward, in faith and belief. I saw a movie last night where somebody made a comment that indicated that most of the time we handle things on our own, but every now and then we need God. If we’re going to live in obedience to God’s Word, we need Him all the time. So when God calls us to obedient living, it’s a walk of faith, we do it by faith, respond by faith. We don’t respond by first getting all the facts, weighing the cost of living out God’s commands, thinking highly of our own opinions and choosing a different path, we simply and completely say, “God says this and so, by faith, this is what I will do.” When we do this we are testifying of a great, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-caring, involved in our lives, God. We’re representing Him.

Step out onto a stormy sea? If God says so! Live by faith, not even trusting my eyes? That’s what He says! Looking out for the interests of others ahead of my own? That is what God says. Every time we do this it is a step of faith, a step that says, “I trust God to care for me as I care for those around me.” Do you see that? God has my life covered, so I am free to help you, to care for you. This is not a license to ignore our responsibilities that God has given us, but it’s an opportunity to determine how we will spend our time being involved in other people’s lives.

In what ways can we be involved with each other? How can we look out for each other’s interests in a practical way? 

Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
“Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:16)
“Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)
“Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
“Greet one another.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
“Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” (Colossians 3:16)
“Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
“Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
“Offer hospitality to one another.” (1 Peter 4:9)

If I am interested in your good, I will respond and involve myself with you in these ways, as God has explicitly called me to do.

Now, I mentioned that there are at least two ways that we may fail in looking out for other’s interests. The first was a lack of faith, not trusting God to take care of us while we look out for each other. The second way we may fail here is when we are consumed with pride.

In our pride we have tendencies to simply build ourselves up, get more for ourselves, and ignore the needs of people around us. Pride is a lot like conceit, it is placing ourselves, our thoughts, our desires, our outlook of self, above other people. It is ranking ourselves higher than our neighbor in whatever way you can imagine.

If we are full of pride we will not live out verse 4. But here is the interesting thing. Paul knows how hard this is for us, to let go of pride, to be humble, so he spends the next seven verses telling about and describing our Savior and His humble attitude as He secured our salvation. He knows it is hard, so he gives this incredible example of Christ.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Paul gives Christ as our example. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ,” he says. If the Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself, coming to earth, walking in flesh, being abused to the point of death on a cross, then who are we to walk and live in conceit and pride? He was great and became lowly. We are lowly and think we are great.

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45)

We glorify God and impact the world as Christians as we live in loving obedience to God. Living this way stands in contrast to the world. One way we do this is, we care for each other, looking out for one another’s interests in humility. That is exactly what Christ has done for us.

How will your week be spent? How much time and effort will be spent by you looking out for the interests of a brother or sister in Christ? In what practical ways will you do this, if we do it at all, this week? Will we only be concerned with our own things, issues, stuff, or will we actively reach out to those around us, looking out for their interests as well?

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)