We have a young men’s study that has been going on for some time, and recently some topics were offered by them to consider. This past week, we discussed the subject of selfishness. Do you struggle with it? One person writes, “Selfishness is that detestable vice which no one will forgive in others, and no one is without himself.” It was John the Baptist, who said, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Dying to self (selflessness) is often a battle within. Yet God calls us to do it. Jesus said clearly, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). As the years’ pass, I understand more earnestly why we are encouraged to choose to die daily. Thomas Kempis writes, “A man is hindered and distracted in proportion as he draws outward things to himself.” We live in such a distracting world, making it all too easy to neglect the need to die daily.
Self-ish-ness – devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s interests, benefits, welfare, etc. regardless of others.
Okay, that is the working definition of selfishness that we want to use; that said, there is some clarity needed before we can look to Jesus and grasp some insight into how we can strive to be like Him. So, we begin with Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.” I love how the NCV reads: “Do not be interested only in your own life but be interested in the lives of others.” I share this because we don’t want to leave with the idea that my interests don’t matter when it comes to dying to self. It is the ability to see others and their needs amid our affairs and doing what is best for all involved. With that said, let’s do what we should always do, look to Jesus for some insight about what is involved with living an unselfish life.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”
Okay, so we need to think as Christ did. So, how did He think? We start with self-awareness. Listen to what is said next, “…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6). Take a moment and make a mental note of the identity of Christ as He walked this earth. He, being the Word, was God (John 1:1) and that Word became “flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). His name would be Immanuel, which means. “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Because Christ was every bit God, He had the right to assume all of its privileges. But, for the cause of sinful humanity, He reasoned in His mind that it would be better to do otherwise. As one commentator put it, “Christ turned has back on the ‘rank’ of equality with God, refusing to exert himself for what was his by right, choosing rather the way of obedience.” The idea of rights versus selflessness leads us into our next thought, which I would like to call positional awareness. Consider the next verse, Christ “…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). It is not until we grasp who Christ was (and is) that this verse sinks into our minds. God became like a bondservant! He who is above all, lowered Himself to become like His creation to serve. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus was fully aware that He was lowering Himself, out of love, to serve those He loved. Finally, there is what I would like to call an active awareness. To think of what Jesus did is amazing. But Jesus’ purposed decision is moved into action in the next verse. Paul writes, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). So often in life, our desire to be selfless is quickly pulled away by wants and desires. We know that Christ didn’t want to die on the cross (Luke 22:42) and agonized over it. Yet, He humbled Himself, committing Himself to the Father’s will. The Father knows best, right?
I want to say that these thoughts result from personal study and to a great deal they are. Still, I must confess that they were stirred by our study conversation this week as someone shared some thoughts from a lesson they heard. Regardless, the impact is genuine to me. Selfishness is best defeated when we are first, self-aware. Knowing who we are in Christ is so important! Then, knowing who we are, enables us to assume a lower position in life to serve others because we know to do so does not change who we are; but rather magnifies who we are. Finally, with such confidence, we follow through in obedience, knowing that selflessness is Christlikeness, just what the Father wants. Thank you, Jesus, for helping us to understand how to die to self.