Philippians 1:21 is one of my favorite verses. (Incidentally, it is also etched on my dad’s tombstone in India. Some of you heard a sliver of his story in my Grace Story and the verse reflects the way he lived his life.) This verse seems like an unachievable ideal. In fact, it is impossible to live it out in our old selves. However, when we are born-again, it becomes possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives in the disciples of Christ.
One way of examining if we embody this verse is to further study Paul’s following comments (Phil 1:23–26): “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” There are many aspects to these verses, but we see Paul desires something, “more necessary for you”. His desire is for others, not his own need to “be with Christ, which is better by far”. The question to ask ourselves is, “How do we make choices to keep others’ needs in mind (before our own priorities)?”
The message of Philippians 1:21 is affirmed later in chapter 2 (we also heard this in Steve Sage’s sermon last week): “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (vv 3-4). Again, Paul is commending the church and the followers of Christ for choosing the interest of others. This is a dying process – going away from ourselves and putting others first. The question for us, when we are thinking and planning, do we keep others’ interests in mind?
This premise and framework of others are not new: it is embedded in what the Lord gave the nation of Israel through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 (look them up). They summarized as the greatest of all commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Loving God is our primary priority, followed by love for others and lastly, ourselves.
Viewing ourselves as least important should be reflected in our conversations, thought processes, meetings in which we host or participate, in our plans, our organization, or in our roles.
Here are more verses to support this premise in Scripture. I have not detailed them; it is homework for you to be Bereans (Acts 17) and “examine the Scriptures”: Matthew 16:25, Luke 14:7-11, James 4:10, and Philippians 2:1-11. (Read them before this week’s sermon and see the Lord Himself as the perfect example.)
Being least in priority is not a popular premise in this day and age, but believe me, it has God behind it! Share your experiences with other fellow followers of Christ, as you live out this verse; make it a reality for people to see and experience the gospel, the greatest news!
Donald Thampy serves as an Elder at GRC.