The Central Place of Attitude
If your attitude is not right, I don't think you can fix anything else!
Everything else in your life, depends upon attitude: Your participation in
worship; Your responsibility to your spouse and children; Dealing with people;
Handling temptation; Enduring suffering; Being properly related to other
Christians. If your attitude is not right, you cannot effectively handle, or
deal with or fix anything else. It is as Solomon wrote - in Prov. 4:23..
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of
If we will develop good focus and clarity about attitude, that will put us in
position to properly approach every other aspect of practical life. Just look
at the words and phrases packed into this little paragraph: love, affection,
mercy, and joy and then, consolation in Christ; comfort of love; lowliness of
mind. Further, observe what is forbidden: selfish ambition and conceit.
This is about attitude, and this attitude of unselfish humility is essential
in order to please God, follow Christ, have personal peace of mind, and to
live in harmony with others.
We cannot be united with each other until we are first united with Christ. Our
relationship with God through Christ is the basis of our good relationship
with each other. And when we address the subject of unity, we need to be sure
we work from the right place, and the right place is in Christ. If I'm living
in Him, and you are living in the same place, we will be able to be united in
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or
conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than
Earlier in Philippians, reference is made to preachers who may deliver the
right message but their motives are wrong. Back in 1:16, there is the
reference to preaching Christ from selfish ambition. Teaching from this text I
recently said: For a man to think about elevating himself above another is
never a right thought! I said - For a preacher to worry about why some other
preacher has more attention, or more praise or acclaim? There is never a time
when that kind of thinking is justified.
Now, here in Phil. 2:3, we are back to that and it is exceedingly important
for every one of us to get this. "Selfish ambition or conceit" just has no
good place in our attitude.
Never a time . . .
Never a place . . .
Never a circumstance . . .
No occasion ever, when we should be driven by selfish ambition or conceit.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain
conceit..." "Nothing!" Just forget it! These immature, selfish
attitudes can never be justified.
And I think we all realize, where there is selfish ambition and conceit,
people don't get along and the Lord's work is not done. Isn't that right? You
show me a group of people were there are power plays . . . battles for
personal prestige . . . rivalry . . . desire for recognition - it is ugly;
there is discord, division, & tension people can see and feel. Selfish
ambition kills churches, dishonors the cause, makes people sick, and offends
So let's make up our mind, we will have no part in it! I need to make a
specific choice. You need to make a specific choice that you will not have a
parade in your own honor and that you will not exalt yourself and look down on
others. You will not praise yourself, boast, or act in any conceited way. We
need to learn what good attitudes are in keeping with the gospel of Christ,
then evaluate ourselves, review that teaching, and determine personally: we
will do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
See more about this in Jas. 3:13-18; Eph. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:1-3 and Matt.
"...in humility, consider others better than
yourselves." Phil. 2:3b
Now let's be honest, sometimes we come to a passage in the Bible like this,
and our first thought may be à That doesn't really mean that! That has to be
an exaggeration. There must be some interpretation, figure of speech, literary
form, something! Honestly, sometimes we seem to want to unload the Word,
taking the power away.
While there is such a thing as hyperbole, I'm convinced - in this context -
looking now at the last phrase in verse 3 in Philippians 2, we need to let
this stand, and be challenged by it: "...consider others better than
If we try to take something off of this or minimize it through some
sophisticated explanation - - I think we're going to wind up putting ourselves
above others, and arranging ourselves above others will take us away from
everything this passage says about genuine humility.
Add verse 4 for further explanation: "Each of you
should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of
others." Our selfishness may not be well concealed. We talk about
ourselves . . . We get upset when people don't pay attention to us . . . We
expect people to treat us in certain way, and we are almost defensive before
we meet people - wondering if they will give us the attention we believe we
need. We may have our greatest interests directed to - what people can do for
us, rather than what we can do for them. Self-centered preoccupation is just
not very graceful.
Our good brother, Walton Weaver, helps us with this in his commentary: "But
Paul says the Christian must esteem others better than themselves, not merely
view them as equals. This is to be done, not because it is the natural thing
to do, but because as Christians we are commanded to do it. Jesus in his
example showed it is the proper thing to do, and he taught that it is the mark
of true greatness ... It was for this reason that the apostles commanded it.
True unity among brethren is impossible without humility on the part of each
Christian," (p.#77, Truth Commentaries, Philippians, by Walton Weaver.).
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 15.1; January 2008