“For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:21
“There can only be two kinds of love…the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self-unto the forgetfulness of God.” Augustine
If the two loves Augustine mentions were on opposite ends of a spectrum, I’d put myself closer to the “love of self” than the “love of God.” You see, the “love of self,” comes naturally to me. (Probably to us all.)
I get so wrapped up in my calendar, my plans, my to-do lists, my hobbies, family, work, etc., that I often neglect to think about the Lord. And if I’m not thinking about Him, how can I possibly demonstrate my love for Him?
To make matters worse, our culture idolizes the “love of self.” For example, in 2019, Google reported that over 93 million ‘selfies’ were taken. (And that’s strictly Android, not Apple devices!)
If we’re not paying attention, we can inadvertently go with the flow of “selfie-culture” until our love for God disappears downstream.
All of this begs the question:
“How can we escape this self-absorbed mess we’re in?”
The Apostle Paul wants to rescue us from our “love of self” attitudes and awaken us to the interests of Jesus Christ.
I would say that today’s Scripture reference is a pretty accurate description of our world, right?
But what is so surprising about this verse is that Paul is not describing unbelievers, but believers.
A little background:
Paul, who was a prisoner in Rome, had become very concerned about the Philippians; so much that he wanted to send one of his fellow believers to check on the church’s welfare.
Unfortunately, Paul couldn’t find anyone willing to make the trip on his behalf.
No one, that is, except for his protégé, Timothy.
We don’t know why others were unavailable. Maybe they were too busy? Maybe they didn’t want to be inconvenienced by traveling?
Whatever the case, Paul commends Timothy as someone who faithfully demonstrates his concern for the things of Jesus:
“I have no one else like him (Timothy), who takes a genuine interest in your welfare…Timothy has proved himself and has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:20,22).
Timothy stood out above the rest, an exception to the norm. In contrast to most believers in the area, Timothy’s life centered around the interests of Jesus.
Timothy shows us an example of the “love of God” lifestyle that I want to exemplify! Don’t you?
Let me offer two takeaways from this text:
• Put others first: Timothy exemplified the “others-first” lifestyle. Choosing to put others ahead of ourselves is a primary way that we not only demonstrate our love for Jesus, but it allows us to take the emphasis off of “self.” In thousands of life’s practical situations, we should “look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
• Put faith into action: Timothy’s faith wasn’t a matter of talk but of action. He didn’t merely give lip service about traveling to Philippi; he made the journey. Time and time again, he “proved himself” and “worked for the gospel” (Philippians 2:22).
Could these things be said about us? Or are we simply wrapped up in ourselves?
If we had to, could we produce any evidence that we put others first? Or that we’re actively participating in the work of Jesus? Or do we just talk about it, or maybe even think we believe in it, but we never actually live it out?
“Oh Lord, just like Timothy, grant us such a deep love for You that we forget about ourselves!”
Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH