Want to Get Rid of Greed?
- 2006 12 Jan
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:3-7)
We don't have to pray for it. We don't have to strive to accomplish it. Focusing on Christ naturally results in a lifestyle of greater selflessness and less greediness.
Paul wrote to his Christian friends in Philippi while he was under house arrest in Rome, hoping to convince them to imitate Christ's selflessness. In Philippians 2:3-5, he gave them four commands: the first and the third are negative; the second and the fourth are positive. He then held up Christ as the ultimate example. He modeled the discipline of surrender to such a degree that sacrifice was inevitable. Here are the commands:
1. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit (v. 3).
2. With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves (v. 3).
3. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests (v. 4)
4. [Look out] for the interests of others (v. 4)
Did you notice? The second command leads off with four significant words: “with humility of mind.” In Matthew 11:29 Jesus called Himself “gentle and humble in heart,” using the same root word.
You want to be like Christ? Begin by thinking of yourself as lowly. Deliberately work toward becoming unselfish. For one full day, let go of anything that serves your own interest to the exclusion of others. On that same day, fix your attention on Jesus by surrendering to Him and His will in complete selflessness. By doing this you will follow a divinely ordained plan that is not your preference.
Don't miss the precise wording of the third command. I'm glad the editors of the New American Standard Bible included “merely” in their translation. You can't live so entirely selflessly that you never look out for your own interests. No one-not even God-expects you to become the local doormat. Obviously, failing to seek adequate food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities would be foolish. Keep all of this in balance. It's a question of priorities and emphasis. “Not merely your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Paul wrote that Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Though Jesus deserved all the respect, all the worship, all the adoration, all the fear due Him as God, He let it all go. He released His grip on all of it.
Want to get rid of greed? Focus on Christ. Somehow fixing your eyes on Jesus causes all other things to pale in significance. When we live surrendered lives before Him, becoming like Him leads to the ever-increasing reality.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, So, You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There (Nashville, Tenn: W Publishing Group, 2005), 87-90.