I try and read a chapter of Scripture most mornings. Today’s chapter was from a segment of an ancient letter written to the church in Philippi some time in the first century AD.
These two verses jumped out at me, mostly because of how counter-cultural they sound to our modern ears:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Do nothing from selfish ambition?
Regard others as better than ourselves?
Look to the interests of others and not our own?
What madness is this? Aren’t we meant to look out for number one?
So much self-help material today is, well, as you might imagine, focussed on ourselves. But what if the best way to help ourselves is to help others?
What if there’s wisdom in these ancient words? What if people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela understood something most of us miss today?
They all lived their lives with a focus on others. They recognised that their lives would be most fulfilled if they didn’t make everything resolve only around them.
This isn’t to suggest we need to beat ourselves up, have low self-esteem, not value who we are, nor care about ourselves. As Jesus said: love your neighbour as you love yourself.
These things go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t have to be either-or.
Perhaps, though, the pendulum has swung too far towards ourselves. Maybe it’s time to look out again, and start looking more to the interests of others.