I’m honestly a bit nervous about writing this post because I hope people get what I’m saying in the right light, but as Christians, we need to start thinking about ourselves; please read this post to the end before passing judgement.
Phi 2: 4 (NLT) Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too
Phi 2:4 (ESV) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
As Christians, we are taught from a very early age to put other people before ourselves and to think of others more highly than ourselves. This is true. As Christians, we think about others before ourselves to the point of making unwise decisions. This is also true.
I think we really struggle with thinking about ourselves as Christians because we do not fully understand what the bible means when it says to think about others more highly than ourselves. The way we have been taught this message almost carries the undertone that we should always and automatically disregard wherever we are in order to help someone, but I personally believe this is only true to a certain extent. When you then add strong cultures like the African culture to the mix, thinking of others first takes a whole new level of complication that is almost bondage-like.
I have seen parents requesting that children take out overdrafts, loans, and credit cards for their personal usage and destroy their children’s credit score by not ever paying back the loans. I have seen pastors bully and manipulate members in churches to “give £1000 to activate their blessing” and watched families go hungry and almost lose properties as a result. I have seen people give every penny they have to family members or friends (especially abroad) who then have more comfortable lives than they do whilst they, and their families suffer at home. This is NOT what the bible is referring to when it says that we should put others before ourselves. There is difference between sacrificial giving, and giving under duress.
The thing I love about this verse is that for me, it puts this topic in the right perspective. Paul advises us to think “not only of our own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This means that we must consider ourselves in how we help and serve others around us, but we are to think of others more.
I believe that as Christians, sometimes we help where we shouldn’t help, and yes God will be merciful and help us, but we need to get to the stage where we primarily function out of God’s grace rather than his mercy. No one should make you feel guilty or put you under duress to give or help them. In fact, I get the opposite impression from the bible. The bible tells us to give joyfully and sacrificially. Sacrificial giving will be bittersweet – the sweet being the joy, the bitter being how much that “gift” costs to you. Duress giving will be frustrating, annoying, and will probably cause you to complain to someone else about it. That is actually a tell-tale sign of what kind of giving you’re doing; how you speak about it after.
What I got from this verse is that there must be wisdom in everything I do, especially in my giving. I must think of others more than myself, but I must also think of myself. How do I do that practically? By always considering where the Lord wants me to be and what he wants me to do. At the moment, I’m studying for a postgraduate clinical diploma which I believe the Lord laid on my heart to do specifically at this time. What this means is that as the Lord has called me to this postgraduate diploma at this moment in my life, I must do every aspect of it well to the glory of God. As I’m funding the course myself, it would be unwise of me to spend frivolously and not save for each instalment of my fees. When people come to me with financial needs, I do so knowing that come September, I have the next instalment of my fees due and as God has called me to this course at the moment, the financial assistance I can offer to those around me will be more limited than if I wasn’t enrolled on this course; I will still help others, but my help will be limited based on what the Lord has called me to at this moment. This for me is the crux of this verse. Because I see my course as a calling, I wish to honour the Lord in every aspect of it, and that includes how I spend. If the Lord has called you to the ministry of being a husband and father, but you are giving all your time to your career or even church at detriment to your family, then I don’t believe you are living this scripture or honouring the calling of God on your life at the moment.
Our primary thought as Christians should be to honour God, and all of the time that will mean thinking, and even making decisions that will cause personal and or external tension; not because you wish to be troublesome or rebellious, but because you wish to honour God.
In essence, my message is this: when you wish to serve and help others, don’t forget to think of what God has called you to at the moment and honour him in that. This will always result in you helping in the right way. You will still end up giving sacrificially, but you will honour God in your giving.
I hope this makes sense?
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