Devotional Thoughts: First or Last?

Phil 2.4

The every man for himself outlook in life leaves one disappointed, lonely and lacking.  We were made to be on this earth together.  The one who only looks out for themselves is distasteful to others.  Nobody thinks selfishness is good.  We discover a beauty we didn’t even know existed when we step away from ourselves and look out for the interests of others.  What does it mean to look out for the interests of others?  Should I be seeking to help others in their hobbies/interests?

It’s always a great idea to read Scripture in its context.  Let’s allow the verse that comes before this one, verse three, to shed some light on the fourth verse:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. “

This is clearly telling us to set aside the selfishness that comes so naturally to us and elevate others, place others first and this will lead to living one’s life the way God intended.

I’d venture to say that our selfishness comes from original sin, the inclination to sin that we entered this world already possessing.  It’s only through our connection to God that we gain a pure desire to live out Philippians 2:4.  Yes, I can seek to gain a pleasant feeling through volunteering and feeling like I did something great in the world today, but this too is just selfishness because in the end what’s being sought out is for me to feel good.  The root of my service is self-seeking.  I am still at the center even if it seems from the outside that I’m putting others first.

I know in my own life I cannot place another person ahead of myself without allowing God to lead me.  It’s through God’s transforming power that I no longer carry that bondage to original sin.  Our souls can carry some of the desires God has, true desires, holy desires.  When we set ourselves aside and ask God to lead we are inclined to live out certain things like serving others, caring for others and not putting myself first in line.  I’d even go as far to say as it becomes our new natural way of living.

Only a fool thinks it’s ok to put themselves first.  This truth doesn’t come through a certification or an education.  It comes as wisdom from God; anyone who seeks it can receive it.  It’s given freely but few possess this because they are afraid.  Fear creates such limitations in our lives.  Are we afraid we’ll be last?  Fear is not from God.  “But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” Mark 10:31

Yes, if we care for others as much as we care for ourselves we are bound to get hurt.  We follow in the footsteps of Jesus when we do this.  We are a true disciple.  We too take on the pain of others as we walk with people through messy tragedies.  This is what Jesus signed up to do for us and God wants us to sign up to do for others.

Here’s this verse expressed in more simple terms in the CEV and paraphrased in The Message:

“Care about them as much as you care about yourselves.” – CEV

“Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” – The Message (a paraphrase)

I assure you that living this verse will bring a beauty into your heart that you never knew existed until you set fear aside and dare to put others first.  Will we be warriors today or will we choose to cower in the corner and turn more and more inward?  Beauty or selfishness?  Joy or disappointment?  Peace or anger?  Yes, we get to choose.

Here’s a few examples of people I know that put others first:

  • A friend spent 1/2 a day her entire summer teaching a human trafficking victim math.
  • A friend serves as a Guardian ad Litem, an advocate for a child in foster care in court.
  • A friend chooses to drive an old car so she can support and encourage a missionary.
  • A friend opens up his home and gives his time to care for someone in need.
  • Many friends give up their time to encourage at risk students and share the Gospel with them.
  • Many I know rush onto the scene where disasters have happened and do backbreaking work to help someone get back into their home that has suffered destruction.
  • A friend daily cares for an elderly person.
  • A friend spent his time taking a quadriplegic to class every day until he finished his education.
  • And this list can be endless!

We might think we are the giver and someone else is the givee, but in God’s eyes we are all equal.  We are truly the disabled one if we are putting ourselves first, or if we think by serving another we are great.  Everyone can help another.  Everyone has something to give.  Everyone has something to learn.  Our relationships should reflect this.  The giver is only the first when the low position is taken, and in taking this position, being first is the farthest thing from the giver’s mind.

Photograph by pastor friend, Daniel Sanchez.

 

 

 

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