READ PHILIPPIANS TWO
When we are selfish, it is impossible for us to seek unity with other believers, which is why Paul speaks so strongly against in as he encourages the Philippian believers – and us – to be united in Christ. When I think about my own experience of selfishness in my own life, I’m often reminded of a time I physically very sick during grad school. When I first got sick, there were intermittent times throughout the day that I noticed my body wasn’t feeling great. I was run down, but could still go about my day and tasks, traveling across town to work, going to the grocery store, etc. Then, as it progressed, I became more and more aware of my own body, noticing how it hurt, how tired it was, and I became campus-bound – I called out of work and asked friends to go to the grocery store for me. Eventually, I was diagnosed with mono; I stayed in my room and rested as much as possible. Occasionally I made it to the cafeteria for a meal, but I mostly stayed to my room. Still, that wasn’t enough to help my body turn the corner, and I was put on bed rest. Only allowed out of bed four out of every twenty-four hours, my new world was my bed and anything within an arm’s reach. At the worst point, all I could do was lie in bed and think about how much my body hurt.
My world, in just a few short weeks, went from a thriving community of 25-square miles, about 25-square inches. Sickness shrunk my world from a community, to campus, to my room, and finally to my bed. And this is what selfishness does: it shrinks our world. As we focus more and more on ourselves, our world gets smaller. We can’t focus outwardly on our community any more, just on our spheres of influence. As it progresses, we think only about our home and our family unit. Then, only on our own experience within that family unity. Eventually, selfishness leaves us sickly in spirit, thinking only about ourselves and where we hurt.
Now, illness is not selfishness; if you’re experiencing chronic illness I am not saying that you are selfish or that none of us need to care for our bodies (we do!). But the illustration has helped me over the years to evaluate self-centeredness in my own life. As I think about how broad my focus is in life, I can see areas where I need to grow and, perhaps, repent of selfishness.
Consider your own life and where you might be on this spectrum.
Do you think of the needs of your community broadly?
Do you think of the needs of your spheres of influence (family, workplace, church, etc)?
Do you think of the needs of others in your home?
Do you think of your own needs?
There is good news for those of us who struggle with selfishness: Christ heals! As I recovered from mono, I experienced a reversal: the world that shrunk grew again. One day, I was able to sit up and look around; even though I was still in bed, I wasn’t tucked so far inside my own mind. I was able to get out of bed again and enjoy different parts of my dorm room. After some time passed, I was able to go to class again and the cafeteria. Eventually, I was back at work, running errands, and participating in the life of my community.
Selfishness, too, can be healed. And the remedy Paul prescribes is a focus on the Gospel. Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the example He gives us in Christ. Today, read this example aloud (verses 5-8). As you read, ask God to heal any areas of self-centeredness in your own heart and to transform you into the likeness of His Son, Jesus.
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He gave us Christ as an example. Ask Him to lead you in repentance from selfishness; ask Him to heal you and make you more like Christ.