“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Philippians 2: 3-4 (NRSV)
I’ve been sitting looking back at some of my recent blog posts, some of my recent social media activity, and some of the words that have been coming from my mouth of late, and I decided I’ve been a bit of a Negative Nancy. I also feel like I’ve been complaining a lot. I guess it’s easy to do when you look at the news and get embroiled in things on social media. There’s so much going on, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and find yourself, or myself in this case, constantly griping and complaining. Before you know it, you look around and your entire presence in the world just seems to be so darn negative.
Well, I decided that I wanted to make an effort and bring about some positivity. I decided I wanted to write about something good and wonderful. As I was thinking about this these words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians came to mind. Wait, humility is a good thing!? Of course it is!
Think about it. Think about a time when you genuinely put the needs of someone else above your own. Think about something you’ve read about a person or group of people selflessly serving others.
Maybe it was the time you went out for lunch and bought an extra sandwich and drink for the homeless person that was sitting outside your office. Maybe it was a time you distributed food at a local food bank. Maybe it was a time when you volunteered to spend time tutoring kids or working in an after school program. Maybe you read about churches in Ferguson opening up to provide day care when civil unrest forced the closure of public schools. Maybe you’ve seen on TV when first responders put their lives on the line to rescue people from fast moving flood waters.
How does it make you feel when you do something like that? How does it make you feel when you see a story like that on the news or in the paper?
The truth is, a lot of us don’t do enough of that kind of thing. The truth is there’s not enough stories like that on the news. That stuff doesn’t sell copy. Last year there was a ton of coverage on the rioting and violence in Ferguson, but what you didn’t see were members of the police gathering with protesters to pray for peace. You didn’t always see the community leaders who didn’t LEAD a march, but just joined in to add their voice to many. Those kinds of stories don’t get ratings. They’re not as sexy as stories about somebody blowing someone else away or the latest celebrity scandal.
When you stop and think about it, our time is one of the most precious resources we possess. It’s finite. There’s only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a month, months in a year, and years in our lives. We only get so much of this resource called time, and when you think of it, we spend a great deal of our minutes and hours sleeping, so we really even have less time to work with! How we regulate the use of our time influences our lives, and the lives of others around us, in so many ways.
None of us are promised another day, hour, minute, or second. Garth Brooks has a song called “Pushing Up Daisies.” In the song the chorus says:
There’s two dates in time that they’ll carve on your stone, and everyone knows what they mean. What’s more important is the time that is known in that little dash there in-between.
That lyric struck me years ago. What happens when you pair it with the words of the Apostle Paul? “Don’t do anything out of selfish ambition, put the needs of others before yourself.”
I’d suggest that Paul is giving a us a pretty strong hint about how to use our time, about what that little dash on our headstone should probably represent.
How many lives can you touch each moment, each hour, each year of your life? How many people can you serve? How many people can you make the world a little bit better place for? How many moments and places of rest can you provide for your weary neighbors as they struggle through their own lives, trying to figure out how to use their time?
I bet we can serve and help way more people than we think we can.
We constantly fret about how much money we make, about what food we’ll have for our next meal (I’m guilty there), and about what clothes we’ll “need” for the next big event. These are the types of things that occupy our minutes, hours, and days.
Yet Jesus specifically tells us not to worry about such things. In Matthew 6:33 he says “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need (NLT.)
And what does it mean to live righteously and to seek the Kingdom of God? If you get nothing else from my posts, please get this: As Gregory Boyd says, the Kingdom of God always looks like Jesus.
Jesus, the man who didn’t worry about his next meal.
Jesus, the man who didn’t seek out the latest fine clothing.
Jesus, the itinerant preacher whose message meant more than any thought of money.
Jesus, who healed the sick.
Jesus, who sought out the marginalized.
Jesus, who eventually gave his own life for others.
You know, if you read on from the verses I cited in Philippians, Paul goes on to say all of that about Jesus and talks about him being the ultimate example of this teaching. It’s one of the greatest “hymns” of early Christian literature.
So I challenge you, just see if you can worry a little less about money, possessions, and food, and see if you can shift just a little bit of focus to the needs of others. I think you’ll find that when you produce a smile in another person, you’ll produce one for yourself. When you meet the needs of another, you’ll find a need being met in you as well.
When you’re long passed, and someone walks by and views your tombstone, what will be known in that little dash between the two dates?