Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:1-4
Paul called the Philippians to value others above themselves. He called them to a humility that looked to the interests of others rather than just their own interests. But he starts by reminding them of what they already have in Christ. They already have encouragement from being united with Christ. They already have comfort from His love. They already have a share in the Holy Spirit. In other words, Paul’s argument is essentially, “Because you already have all of this, you don’t have to act from a place of selfishness.”
I think that so often what looks like selfishness is actually rooted in self-protection. We do selfish things and say things in an effort to protect ourselves. We are afraid of being destroyed. We are afraid that people will use us or take advantage of us, and we are convinced that we are our only protection. We live as orphans thinking that we have to be the one to do it all ourselves. We think, “If we don’t look out for our own interests, no one will. If we don’t protect ourselves, no one will.” But this self-protection is so damaging.
In the Christian life, self-protection is self-sabotage. The very acts that we think will protect us end up burning down the bridges that we need for support. When we “look out for number one” we end up doing damage to ourselves. Self-protection is self-sabotage because we are called by God not to look just to our own interests but to the interests of others.
When, in humility, we value others above ourselves, we are operating as children of a God who will care for us. He will be our protector and provider. We can give our life away because He is the unending source of our life. Jesus said it like this, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven“(Matthew 5:45).
Laying down our rights to self-protection is like laying down a gun pointed at ourselves. At first it may feel like we are sacrificing something but the thing we are laying down is actually something that would do us harm. If we can lay down our tendencies toward self-protection, we get to pick up God’s protection and provision. We get to pick up a life of trusting our Good Father to look out for us. We get to pick up His love and compassion for us. We get to live a life that is dependent on Him rather than one that is dependent our own ability to scrap and scrape for ourselves. As Jesus said:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.Matthew 16:25