Philippians on Friday: The Recipe for Unity

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.  I’m sorry I’ve missed posting for the last two Fridays – I was out of the country doing missions work.  I’m excited to get back into our weekly study.   Today we’re continuing on in Chapter 2:

Philippians 2:3-4: 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

If you remember from our last devotion, Paul opened chapter two with an appeal for unity among the Philippians. Paul knew all too well the negative impact that disunity and strife has upon the body of Christ. He admonished them to be likeminded, to love one another and to be of one accord and one mind.

UnityNow, starting in verse 3, Paul shows how to have unity in the body. He gives practical steps for how to be likeminded, show love one another and be in one accord. His recipe for unity is so needed in this day where division, strife and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Step One:     Check Your Motives

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…”

The word “strife” here means “rivalry.” Paul said, “Let nothing be done through rivalry.” He’s addressing our motives. Why are we doing what we do in the local church or in the Body of Christ? Are we trying to be better than someone else in the congregation? Are we trying to outdo someone else for the purpose of self-edification? Is our motive to build up self or build up the Kingdom of God? Rivalry is all about promoting self and it has no place among those seeking unity. Rivalry and unity are like oil and water – they don’t mix!

How do you know if you are doing things out of rivalry? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I more interested in me doing well than I am all of us doing well?
  • Am I overly concerned that I get the credit for something that’s done or am I more interested in the outcome than who gets the credit?
  • Do I get any satisfaction out of someone else doing poorly at something?
  • I am truly happy when someone else in the church is successful, blessed or effective in his or her ministry?

Honest answers to these questions will help reveal how well we’re doing at keeping rivalry at bay. It’s a constant battle to keep our motives pure.  Our flesh always craves self-promotion.

philippiansPaul identified another improper motive that works against unity – vain glory.  Doing something out of “vain glory” means doing something for the purpose of bringing glory to self, rather than glory to God. This is another great hindrance to unity in the church. Here’s another motive check: Do we want people to be impressed with us or impressed with Christ? Are our actions bringing glory to Him or are they subtly and strategically designed to bring glory to self?

The first step in achieving the unity Paul is writing about in this passage is to check our motives and make sure what we do in the Body of Christ does not stem from rivalry or is done for the purpose of exalting self.

Step 2:          Think More About Others than Yourself

“…but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

Paul is giving us incredible insight into what creates unity: a genuinely selfless attitude! Unity thrives in an environment of selflessness! Think about it. At the root of most all disunity in the body of Christ is selfishness. When people are thinking more about their own needs, wants, rights, preferences, tastes and desires more than the needs of others, unity suffers greatly.

Unity is so needed in this day where division, strife and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Lowliness of mind and esteeming others better than ourselves does not mean putting ourselves down or feeling poorly about ourselves. It’s simply referring to preferring our brothers and sisters. It means placing our own well being second to the well being of others. Paul is simply encouraging the Philippians to be more concerned with others than with self.

No one likes being around a person whose entire world revolves around self. And few things hinder unity more than that kind of self-centered attitude.

Step 3:          Be Concerned about the Things of Others

Paul goes on to say:

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

The previous verse refers to our thoughts being upon other people more so than upon ourselves. This verse is similar, but deals more with the things of others.

I like the Living Bible’s rendering:

“Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.” Philippians 2:4

philippiansBe interested in the affairs of others! Show genuine concern and care for what others are interested in. Some people think their own affairs are the only things that are important. What a hindrance to unity. With one trifling exception, the whole world is made up of others. Ask how others are doing. Show genuine interest in their response. Be interested in others. The most refreshing people to be around are those who are genuinely interested in other people!

Unity is indispensable to any growing and thriving congregation. Let’s adhere to Paul’s advice to the Philippians on how to protect and promote unity within the local church!

Until next week!

~Matthew Ball

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