‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit’ Philippians 2:3
I don’t know if you’re old enough, but I remember a song by Carly Simon called ‘You’re so vain’ all about a broken relationship stemming from a guy thinking the world revolved around him. It has a really catchy melody and I often catch myself singing it now, even though the song came out in 1972.
Vanity is an interesting concept and one which we may not think much about, but one we’re all affected by.
I wonder what you think of when you hear the word vanity. Maybe your mind goes to someone who looks in the mirror too much, who is over concerned with their appearance or maybe it’s quite an old-fashioned word that we don’t really consider anymore.
If I’m honest I know I’m vain. I’ve been aware of it most of my life really. Maybe that’s why the song really resonated with me not because of the romantic relationship it speaks of but of my obsession with self.
As far as I can remember I have wanted others to love me but not just to love me like they love others but to love me better than others. I’ve always been obsessed with how I look, do I meet my standard of perfection, what if I don’t fit in, what if, what if, what if I, I, I.
The chorus of the song says, ‘you’re so vain I bet you think this song is about you, your so vain’.
Yes I do think this life song is about me. What about you? Are there times when you feel the world is revolving the wrong way, you feel left out, or you don’t belong, which results in you trying harder to get others to like you or maybe you isolate yourself from others for protection? Or everyone else is in your orbit and all you need to do is get everyone on your page.
In the bible Paul the apostle was teaching the church that they were to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Strange thing to teach a church, if they had trusted in Jesus shouldn’t they automatically be thinking of others above themselves? After all the second commandment is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.
I used to think I hated myself, how I looked, how I didn’t quite measure up but over the years Jesus has shown me that my problem is I have loved myself too much, I have this overwhelming need to justify to others who I am so that they can love me too.
But this isn’t just my problem, it isn’t just your problem, it is the problem of sin; it is the problem of being a human being. This is why the teaching of Paul to the Philippian Church is crucial to us today too.
What is your response to the verse ‘do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit’? Do you find yourself making excuses or justifying why you do what you do ‘I have to love myself no-one else does’ ‘I’ve got low self-esteem, so I need to big myself up’ ‘I’m a nobody anyway’ ‘if only others did what I say’ ‘my way or the highway’.
Are you willing to take a really close look in the mirror? Health warning: please ask someone to pray with you as you do this, as coming face to face with uncovered sin is too hard to do on your own. Read the whole of Philippians 2 and see the only way we can do this is understanding who Christ is and depending on him.
The rest of verse 3 says ‘Rather in humility value others above yourselves’.
Mmm sound too hard, sound too easy? This verse is a great heart check, ask Jesus to show you the places where you’re expecting others to put you (or your opinions) above themselves and experience the relief that comes from putting others first.
Our way we only love ourselves, Jesus way is no-one is left out!