The Sacrifice of Self

The Sacrifice of Self-Empowerment (Pt. 1)
Phil. 2:1-4
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

Our greatest appetite is not our cravings for food but our craving for self.  Our natural desire is to look out for our own self-interests.  In Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization, which is achieving one’s full potential, including creativity, is listed as the highest need, and self-esteem is second.   So the mantra today has become about personal empowerment, which is about taking control of our own lives and making positive decisions based on what we want. We are told to be in control of our destiny and that we should not allow anyone to tell us what to do.  The song by Frank Sinatra, “My Way,” has become our personal national anthem, for in the end, nothing matters more than living life on our terms.

Certainly, a healthy self-image and an understanding of our value as individuals created in the image of God is important.  The danger is that there is a fine line between a healthy self-image and a self-oriented self-image.  Paul recognizes his security and identity in Christ when he states to the church at Corinth, “But to me, it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you or by any human court” (1 Cor. 4:3). However, this confidence was not grounded in an overwhelming sense of worth and importance in himself, but comes from his identity in Christ, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (verse 1). A healthy self-image is grounded in our relationship with Christ and that we are created in his image.

In Philippians, Paul reorients our perspective from being self-driven to being others driven.   Instead of being driven by self-empowerment, we are to be driven by a desire to minister to the needs of others.  Paul takes it a step further than just being concerned about others.  He states that we are to “regard one another more important than yourself.”  For Paul, the greatest value and worth is not our own self-fulfillment but the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Since our goal is the pursuit of knowing Christ, we can set aside the pursuit of our own self-driven desires and focus on serving Christ by serving others.  The command is not negative but positive.  Paul is not saying that we are to put ourselves down or think of ourselves as someone with no value or worth—quite the opposite.  We have infinite value and worth, not in ourselves, but in our identity in Christ.  Because our identity and worth come from Christ, we are now in a position to let the needs and interests of others become more important than our own.  We can honor others and serve them.  Because we are co-heirs with Christ, the children of the living God, we can focus on the needs of others rather than our own.  

While the world tells us to look out for ourselves, pursue our self-interests, and not allow anyone to hinder us, Christ calls upon us to have a different mindset.  In Christ’s hierarchy of needs, others stand at the top because, in Christ, our needs are already met.  Instead of focusing on ourselves and how others treat us, we can focus on others and how we can minister to them.  One of the hardest acts to do is to set aside “self” and replace it with “others.”  We continually want to place ourselves and our desires, wants, and needs first, and when others hinder us from achieving what we want and desire, we become angry and bitter.  Yet, as Paul points out in the following verses, which we will examine in tomorrow’s devotional, Christ gives us a completely different model. He calls us to his model of self-sacrifice for others.

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