Philippians 2:1-5 (CEB)

1Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.


It’s often said that humility does not consist in thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less. That’s a helpful distinction. So many of us already have a constant internal monologue reminding us that we are less than those around us: we’re not as smart, attractive, gifted, creative, etc. What we DON’T need is a faith component to reinforce negative thoughts we already have about ourselves. Voices like that are NOT the voice of God in us.

In light of this observation, it’s good for us to reflect a bit more on verse 3, which calls each of us to “think of others as better than yourselves.” I’ve tried to make this difficult phrase go away by looking at different translations, going back to the original Greek, etc. but it’s no use. So, we have to figure out another way to make sense of it.

Verse 4 is helpful for context here: we’re supposed to be watching out for what’s good for others. The beginning of verse 3 lines up with that too: don’t be selfish.

Too often, we approach everything with the question: “what’s in it for me?” I get that. When we have limited time, attention, and energy, we tend to pull back to the things that are essential to take care of us and those we love. We think of those things as of first importance. Put your oxygen mask on first, right?

I think the error we make is in assuming that if we think of others first, then that MUST mean giving away things that we ourselves need, and that we’ll suffer for it. I’m sure all of us know someone like that, who’s always doing for others and never themselves. Let’s be honest: we admire them, but we don’t want to be them. That way of living is just too costly, and often leads to bitterness and resentment. Those folks are the exception, though, and not the rule. Most of us don’t need to be reminded to think about ourselves. We just do, because we’re human.

So maybe the takeaway isn’t that we should only ever think of others, but rather that we should always make a deliberate, conscious effort to take others into consideration. In other words, don’t just put yourself in the center of your decision making. Think of yourself less.

A person who only ever considers themselves can never have a healthy relationship with anyone, because at some point, EVERY meaningful relationship will require you to put the other person first and yourself, your needs, and your wants second. Of course, in a healthy relationship, there’s an expectation that the other person will sometimes do the same for you.

So don’t fall into the trap of never thinking of others because you’re afraid of losing yourself. There’s NO requirement, as a follower of Jesus, that you think less of yourself. But you ARE required to think of yourself less.

by Joe Monahan

For Pondering & Prayer

Some people, because of their upbringing or their past experiences, may find it difficult NOT to lose themselves in a relationship. They may have a tendency to think they don’t deserve peace, or rest, or joy. Where do you fall on the spectrum? Is it natural for you to consider your own needs, or do you need to be reminded?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to recognize that there is space for us to care both for ourselves and for others. Remind us today to consider how the things we say and do will affect those around us – not from the perspective that we don’t matter, but because your cross proves how immensely each of us does matter. Amen.