Philippians 2:1-4 Devotional
Philippians 2:1-4. Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Reflection. Our passage begins with an emphatic linking word, “Therefore”, tying these verses to those preceding them. In brief, Paul calls for Christians to meet the various needs of others rather than obsessing over their own. The energy and source for this encouragement is what we have received in Christ (2:1-2). We are to emulate him by putting others ahead of ourselves (2:3-4).
The added dimension of this exhortation is that the original recipients of this epistle were suffering for their faith (1:28-29). They were locked in conflict not dissimilar from Paul’s own experiences (1:30; also see 1:12-18). This context of hardship makes Paul’s challenge to value others above ourselves and be concerned for their interests even more astonishing. For Christians are called to always look out for others, even when we feel entitled to in need of care from others.
How can we do that? Because, if we are honest, most of us instinctively look after our own interests - just as we easily love ourselves - and this is typically heightened when we are facing challenges or hardships. Paul’s answer is that we should share what is ours in Christ, both experientially and from his example.
Firstly, whatever “encouragement…comfort…tenderness [and] compassion” we enjoy in Christ should be shared with others (2:1-2). I take it this is what Paul means by calling for us to be “like-minded…being one in spirit and of one mind.” Christ’s love for us means we are incomparably blessed and reassured. Therefore let us offer the encouragement and comfort we have experienced to others. The temptation for us, especially when we are struggling, is to retreat into God as our refuge instead of urging others to do the same. Understanding that God provides peace amid turmoil as we seek him in prayer (3:6-7) is a glorious reality both to take hold for yourself and proclaim to others. What we have and know in Christ is a treasure to be shared not hoarded.
Secondly, this passage corrects the thinking that limits our service and encouragement of others to seasons when we are comfortable and settled. Remember that the Christians Paul originally addressed at Philippi were being persecuted for their faith. Yet he exhorts them to encourage each other. And in addition to sharing with others the wonderful experience of Christ’s love he challenges them to follow Christ’s example: “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (2:5). Jesus Christ did “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” but with incredible humility valued others above himself (2:3) and unflaggingly looked to their interests (2:4)—to your interests.
Our Lord exhibited an other-person centredness that Christians have long marvelled at but often failed to emulate. If anything, this passage challenges us who rest in Christ’s love but do not comfort others with it; those of us who rejoice in and sing about his wonderful love for us but do not encourage others with it. May God help us to have the same mind as Christ—even when we believe that others should be looking after us.