Philippians: How God Calls Us to Live – Valuing Others: A Call to Humility

The gospel is the greatest news this world will ever hear. God has given us the awesome responsibility of sharing it with a needy world. In chapter one of Philippians, Paul talks about the importance of believers being united in their purpose to make the good news known. He called them to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel.” It’s a call to unity.

In chapter two, he goes on to stress the importance of placing value on one another. This key reality comes out of verse three, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”[1] This is seeing others as God sees them.

This is one of the reasons Paul makes this book so Christ-centered. Paul knew that as we focus on our Savior, we are changed little by little into His likeness. As we grow more like Him, our values reflect His and we learn to value others as He does. The four statements of Paul reflect how Christ is the focus of Philippians:

  1. He is our life! Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (1:21).
  2. He is our example! “Let this mind be in you” (2:5 KJV).
  3. He is our reality! “That I may know him” (3:10).
  4. He is our strength! “I can do all things through him [Christ]” (4:13).

The ESV says, “In humility, count others more significant than yourselves” (2:3). The KJV says, “Let each esteem others better…” I heard a speaker once ask, “How do you do this when you know it’s not true?” Everyone laughed and I, too, thought it was funny at the time, but now I see it for what it is. It’s pride right to the core.

Paul is not talking about performing tasks here. He’s not saying that even though George can preach better than Henry, that George should consider Henry a better preacher. He is not comparing gift or ability, but prioritizing our estimation of someone, and counting them more valuable, more important than ourselves (see 2:4).

Qualities In Valuing Others

First, in verses one to four there are qualities that will help us in valuing others. In verse one we are told to be mindful. We belong to Christ, so encourage one another. We have received His love, so comfort each other. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so enjoy each other’s company. We get sympathy and affection from a tender Father, so act in the same way.

In verse two Paul encourages us to keep a single-hearted focus. He says, “The same mind … the same love, being in full accord.” What does this mean?

He’s saying that our minds, our hearts and our behavior should all be geared toward a common goal. If our purpose is not united, then our cause will not prosper. We need each other.

In verse three he is telling us to be humble. It sounds simple, but it’s not. It is a lifelong endeavor that requires us to make the mind of Christ ours.

Lastly, in verse four he tells us to be observant. Don’t be self-centered. It doesn’t mean you neglect yourself or do your best not to enjoy life. No! But make it your ambition to find the needy, the vulnerable, the weak, the less fortunate, the less popular, and the less privileged, and take an interest in them.

Examples In Valuing Others

The greatest example is Jesus, as seen in verses five to eight. Paul describes His great stoop from heaven to earth. The one who was eternally God the Son took the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man. Why did He do this? It was because of the great value He placed on us.

Then Paul refers to himself (vv17-18). He poured out his life like a drink-offering. He emptied the contents upon the altar. Why did he do this? It was for others.

Then he talks about Timothy (vv19-24). He didn’t just have a concern for the church; he was “genuinely concerned” (v20). He came to Paul and cheered him, encouraged him and refreshed him. Why? Again, it was for others.

Lastly, he speaks about Epaphroditus (vv25-30). Verse 30 says he came near to death. He put his life on the line, put his neck on the block, and despised the danger. Why live with this risk of death? It was for Paul and the benefit of the gospel.

Advice In Valuing Others

The message of verses 12-13 is to rest in God’s power. He is working in you and enabling you to do what He desires. These verses have confused a lot of people. When Paul says work out your own salvation, he is basically telling them to face their problems, humbly repent, and get back on track.

This can be done because it is “God who works in you.” When we start acting in the flesh, separate from God’s enabling help, we mess it up.

Then in verse 14 the advice is to stop complaining and criticizing. What does God hear from your heart and mouth? Is it a constant rumbling of complaint, or a steady flow of praise? Probably a mixture of both! God’s work in you produces joy and praise, not complaining and criticizing.

The sins are directed toward God. Grumbling or muttering is not being satisfied with God’s will. The questioning or arguing is not believing God’s goodness. It is a discontented spirit. These were the sins that kept Israel wandering for 40 years.

In verse 15 the emphasis is on your testimony. People can’t see what you’re thinking, but they can see how you react. People can’t see what’s going on in your heart, but they feel your love and compassion, or rejection and disdain. People can’t see the inward person, but they can definitely see the outward. Paul is telling them and us to keep the light of Christ glowing in your life.

Lastly, in verse 16 the lesson is to hold on tightly to the Word of life. Interestingly, the ESV says “hold fast,” and the KJV says “hold forth.” One gives the impression of a tight grip, while the other the idea of a hand outstretched. Both are true. The gospel is so precious that you hold on to it with all your might, like a precious gem. Yet it is so valuable that you want others to have it too. It’s like sharing the wealth, and there is enough for everyone.

With the qualities equipping us, the examples to show us, and the advice to teach us, we can value others as God does. It is living in true humility.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.