"Putting Others First"
When I was a boy, Life Magazine was one of the leading publications in the country. Through the years People,, US and Self magazines have appeared. I mention these because I believe their names reflect a downward spiral in our country from responsibility for self and others to an obsession with personal rights.
I recognize that you might take issue with my assumption. You could point to the outpouring of financial support that Americans have given in response to natural disasters both at home and abroad in recent years. Your observations would be correct. There is no other nation in the world that has been more generous in these situations. However, I am not thinking as much about these types of events as I am about the day to day opportunities that we have to choose between self and others.
Our obsession with self is seen in our equally obvious obsession with our rights. It seems that everyone is conscious of his/her rights today. We hear this all the time in business, the work place, politics, marriage, church, and every other venue of human interaction. While I am for individual rights and freedom as much as the next guy, I am alarmed at how the obsession with our rights have blurred or destroyed our willingness to accept our responsibilities. When you break it down to its basics, rights are about self and responsibilities are about others. The more self absorbed we are; the less concerned we are about our responsibilities to others.
While the world promotes this fascination with self, scripture teaches us something different. In his admonition to the church at Philippi, Paul addresses this issue by writing, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3, 4) Paul is not advising that we should forget about our own personal interests. We have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others. However, he is admonishing us not to let our personal interests absorb us. He is encouraging us to be conscious of the needs of others. He is saying our decisions should not only consider self but that they should consider the effect our choices have on others. He is saying in our listing of priorities we are to consider others first.
Few days pass that we do not have the opportunity to choose between selfish desires and the needs of others. The natural thing to do is to choose self over others. The Spirit filled way is to place others first. Imagine the changes it would make in your home or church, if everyone put into action the words written by Paul to the Philippians. I believe it would reduce the constant bickering that often defines families and churches. I believe it would demonstrate in life the words of Jesus: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NASB).