Philippians: How many?

Ok, so do me a favour as you read through the book of Philippians today: count how many of the verses (or whole chunks of this book) you already knew/remembered as you were reading it. I bet you counted more than one.

Philippians is an incredibly packed book and I couldn’t hope to put into words everything that Paul writes to the church in Philippi.

I make mention of one thing in regard to this book, instead of painting the broad stroke I have been painting. Paul spends a good chunk of the first chapter and most of the second chapter talking about humility, specifically humility in the context of the church family. For as many sermons as I have heard, and even preached myself, about humility, I think most people (not just Christians) have a very wrong idea of what humility is. Humility is NOT thinking less of yourself. Humility is not putting yourself down or demeaning or devaluing yourself. In fact, people who go out of their way to do those things are guilty of the sin of false humility, which is a form of deception. Humility, quite simply, is not making yourself (or thinking yourself) better than other people. Paul tells us, in chapter 2, to avoid rivalry and conceit and instead put on humility. That makes rivalry and conceit the opposites (antonyms) of humility.

Rivalry is to put yourself in competition with someone else for a position of superiority. Conceit is to have an overly high opinion of oneself, abilities or accomplishments. Humility is the opposite of those things. It is to not seek superiority over others. It is to have a healthy opinion of yourself, your abilities and your worth.

All of that, in relation to the church, means that we “think the same way, have the same love, share the same feelings, focus on the same goal” (Philippians 2:2). This is an echo to the statement Paul makes at the end of chapter 1 when he writes “I will hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (part of vs 27).

The reason I know that was as Christians still need these teachings from the Scriptures about humility is because those things that Paul mentions are sadly not always present in the church. Quite often we are very much more interested in protecting “my” position, or insisting on “my” opinion, or fighting for what makes “me” happy. Instead, Paul tells us: “Everyone should look out NOT only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

What would it look like if people made it their mission to look out for the interests of everyone else instead of their own? What if young people fought to sing hymns in the church because they knew the elderly enjoyed them? What would it look like if old people fought to sing modern worship in the church because they knew that the young people connected with it? What if the happily married people fought tooth and nail to help people whose marriages are in shambled? What if the well off in our congregations (that’s most of us by the way according to the world’s standards) looked out (and I mean really looked out) for the interests of the poor in our town?

Things might just look different.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Timothy

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