Phil 2:3 KJV “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves.” A couple of years ago, I was struggling with emotional pain. Someone had done me and my family wrong and wounded us so very deeply. Over time, as my son and I struggled to rise above all the pain and pettiness, I remember a voice rising within me, saying that they had never been worth my time, and that it was ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’ since they were no longer an active participant in my life.
On a walk one day, the Holy Spirit slowly began to convict me on this attitude. By this time, I had been faithfully reading my bible for over a year, quietly hiding the word of God in my heart. Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” I had heard Joyce Meyer say to simply ‘eat’ the word of God daily as a discipline, and that when you need it, the Holy Spirit will quicken your spirit to the right word. On this particular day, I was strolling around the neighborhood, quietly meditating on their unworthiness owing to all the terrible things they had done to me, when a phrase popped into my head out of nowhere. Cautiously, I pulled out my phone and typed out the words that had been impressed upon my heart and found it was an actual bible verse: “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Phil 2:3b NKJV.
I have learnt the word of God is like a dose of medicine and that it’s useless to fight against it. Why? It is the very word that is there to heal you; to curb your pride; to check your attitude; to correct your outlook; to transform your mind; to change your character; It is the very word that saves us from ourselves, for we are our own worst enemies. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. Our hearts whisper lies to us all the time, that we are better than others; that we should esteem ourselves as better than others. But by whose standards are we measuring worthiness? From whose standpoint are we measuring this worthiness? What are the perimeters in place to make this determination? What are the KPIs? Who determines the other’s competitive edge? Who positions their USP? What are the drivers that we’re considering when we determine ourselves as better than others?
On God’s weighing scales, what matters to him? Is it our education level? Our academic achievements? Our career highlights? Our social circles? Our interpersonal skills? The size of our portfolios? Our looks? What really are the indicators that God looks at to weigh us? Jeremiah 17:10 gives us one of those scales: “I, the LORD, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” According to this verse, the mind is one such metric to God; the heart, another. He carefully examines our minds, our thoughts, our hearts, then he rewards us according to what he finds. A worthy prayer to this end is Psalm 139:24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
We cannot be the judges of our hearts because our thoughts lie to us all the time. My thoughts keep trying to tell me that I am better than, yet God’s word says I should esteem others as better than myself. I could follow my own counsel or I could submit to the unchanging word of God. Proverbs 28:26 tells me that “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” I could follow my own heart or yield to the counsel of the living word of God. In extolling the virtues of God’s word when it comes to keeping us in check, the Psalmist asks in 19:12 “Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.”
As long as we see others as less than us, we will treat them as such, and that will not be of God and definitely not a fruit of the spirit. I will admit that my heart lies to me all the time (Sin in crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it – Genesis 4:7). My assessment of myself is often incorrect. Indeed we often extend more grace to ourselves than we do to others, justifying our actions while condemning those very same actions from others. The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else; who can discern their own errors? I choose to yield to God’s word for the cleansing of my hidden faults, and if that means esteeming others as being better than myself, then so be it. Even if things in the natural/physical appear contrary to that instruction, I choose the counsel of the Lord over that of the flesh.
In today’s world, This is an unpopular opinion. There is pressure to see ourselves as the best there can be. We are trained to adopt this very attitude, say, at interviews. Or even in politics: I alone can fix it. The world even rewards such bad behavior. Yet we are called to not conform to worldly patterns, but to renew our minds to God’s word instead. The world says, ‘I’m better than you’, but for his people, God’s word says ‘to esteem others as better than self’. Which path will you take, yours or God’s? Selah