In reading the Bible and talking to God this morning, I was struck freshly by this verse:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
I have trouble with this verse because it seems to imply that the Christian way of being in this world is to go around thinking of yourself as of little value, and everyone else as better. Almost as if walking down the street each day you should always be reminding yourself of how terrible you are and how great everybody else is: “I’m a total schmuck. That guy over there – he’s way more valuable than I am. That girl over there, she’s definitely more valuable than me, too.”
Certainly this is how a lot of Christians do live. And even how a lot of Christians think they’re supposed to live. But is this really what God calls us to? Is self-contempt a godly trait? This is a very important question!
So I did some research.
I went over to Blue Letter Bible (a great site for doing studies of Scripture) and looked up Philippians 2:3. The Greek word for “above” in this verse (as in, “value others above yourselves”) is “hyperecho“. Its definition is:
1) to have or hold over one
2) to stand out, rise above, overtop
a) to be above, be superior in rank, authority, power
1) the prominent men, rulers
b) to excel, to be superior, better than, to surpass
This word is used 5 times in the Bible. In two of those instances, it refers to governing authorities, as in definition 2)a) (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13). Once it refers to “the peace of God which transcends [hyperecho] all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). And once it refers to “the surpassing worth [hyperecho] of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).
So here’s the question: Are we called to consider others as of greater value than ourselves (as the word is used in Philippians 3:8 and 4:7), or of equal value but higher rank than ourselves? If the first is true, then we have a Biblical calling to devalue ourselves to benefit others. If the second is true, then we have a Biblical calling to value ourselves highly while honoring and submitting to others.
What do you think? I’ll share what I came up with next time.