Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 17, 2011

Looking Beyond Ourselves

The Good Samaritan

Every day I look for opportunities to go beyond — to step across the line that defines the most I have ever done for God and His purposes. Even if I take only a small step, I will take it because it will help me to keep my life oriented in a God-ward direction. Like Paul, I want to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). One of the most important factors in going beyond is learning to look beyond ourselves to consider the interests and needs of others. Paul stated it this way in Philippians 2:3-4 — “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Here are some thoughts about what it means to look beyond ourselves.

Do nothing from selfishness | The Greek word for “selfishness” is “eritheia” — a self-seeking, ambitious, competitive spirit. This word refers to the kind of ambition which has no conception of service and whose aims are profit and power. The word was often used to denote a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. It was also used to denote the jockeying for position, place, and power in the political arena solely for the purpose of benefiting self. It speaks of advancing one’s own cause at the expense of others.

or empty conceit | The term “empty conceit” comes from the Greek word “kenodoxia” and refers to personal vanity or vainglory. This word is literally translated “empty praise” and refers to those who serve for the purpose of being seen and praised by men. It is a word that refers to those who try to draw attention to themselves by their acts of charity and boasting (see Matthew 6:1-2). Taken together, “selfishness and empty conceit” caution us that serving or behaving for the purpose of obtaining power, profit, praise, and prestige are wrong motivations for serving.

but with humility of mind | Humility is the proper mind-set for Christian behavior. The word humility comes from the Greek word “tapeinophrosunei” which means “the ability to recognize one’s personal insufficiency and the ability to recognize the powerful sufficiency of God.” It is a word which is the opposite of “selfishness and empty conceit.” Those who are humble have a right view of others, take an interest in the welfare of others, and lose themselves in the service of others.

let each of you regard one another as more important than himself | This is the same idea expressed in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor.” When one has the proper mind-set (“humility of mind”) then the practical manners will follow (“regard one another”). The basic idea here is that we should be more others-centered than self-centered.

do not merely look out for your own personal interests | The thought here is that we must not become so focused on ourselves that we lose sight of others and fail to recognize their good points and qualities.

but also for the interests of others. | The meaning of this passage can be illustrated by one of Jesus’ most famous stories: “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37). This is the story of the unfortunate traveler who was beaten and robbed on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Thieves beat him, took his money, and left him lying in a ditch. In varying degrees, each one of us is represented by the three groups of people in the story. There were the crooks whose attitude was, “I’ll take from you. What’s yours is mine. I’ll take it.” There were the calloused and uncaring ecclesiastics whose attitude was “I’ll keep from you. What’s mine is mine. I’ll keep it.” Then there was the one whom Christ said is to be our example, the caring Samaritan whose attitude was “I’ll give to you. What’s mine is yours. I’ll share it.” It is the caring Samaritan that teaches us the meaning of looking beyond ourselves — of looking beyond our personal interests to behold the interests of others. Let’s purpose to look beyond ourselves and to take advantage of every opportunity to affirm and serve others.

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