Some of the most wonderful and simple moral teachings in all Scripture, in all written discourse actually, came from the pen of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3).
Try and imagine a world where this principle, and not greed, lust, and the desire for power and prestige, dominated human actions. We wouldn’t recognize the place, would we?
First, nothing done through “selfish ambition or conceit.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with ambition (please, it’s how most things get done) but that’s not what he said. He said let nothing be done through “selfish ambition.” That is, from a desire to do something only for yourself, only for your own conceit, and with no consideration of how it might impact or even hurt others. It’s sad to say “selfish ambition” is, for some, the only motive that they have.
In “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Can you imagine what our world would be like? Imagine the rich esteeming the poor better than themselves? Those with homes esteeming the homeless better than themselves? The famous esteeming the nobodies better than themselves? The powerful esteeming the weak better than themselves? Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
And look not only at your own interests “but also for the interests of others.” Notice, Paul didn’t say to not look after your own interests. We have to look at them. What he said was not to look only at them; that is, don’t make your life’s work around only yourself and your own interests, which is so easy to do. Instead, use some of the energy that you devote to yourself and devote it to others, and with no desire or expectation of anything in return.
Yes, it would be nice if our world were like that, wouldn’t it? But it’s not, and Paul knew that it was not. But that wasn’t his point. His point was to tell us, we who love the Lord, that this is what we should do. We might not change the world, but living like this sure would change our world, and perhaps the world of a lot of others as well. Which is, indeed, his point.