“You think you’re better than me?!?!”

12 03 2011

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).

Is this true? Or does the Bible command us to dislike ourselves?

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.

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3 responses

12 03 2011
The Prodigal Shah

maybe an option 3. Both of those understandings do not seem to adequately incorporate the context of this passage, and the parallel to Christ. To me the key word is ‘consider’ as used in verse 3 & then to describe Christ in verse 6. Christ was God yet “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”. He WAS something…..yet chose to empty himself (Kenosis)….for the sake of us // to the glory of God

Mysterious to be sure, but the parallel seems to be for us to follow in his footsteps. We ARE (valuable, child of God etc…) — eliminating option#1 , but we ‘consider’ ourselves less…for the sake of others // to the glory of God. I actually don’t think we can do this if we don’t understand who we are first. maybe that’s number 2, but it all depends on what you mean by “higher rank”.

just a thought. like reading your stuff Tim.

12 03 2011
Tim Courtois

Shah! Nice job! Funny enough, I already wrote part 2 of this post, but it won’t publish till next week… but you basically summarized it exactly. That’s hilarious. Following in Christ’s footsteps, and looking at the rest of Phil. 2. Man, I feel like we’re totally connected right now.

12 03 2011
The Prodigal Shah

i had that thought as i was writing…..this is probably just part II : )

i love this passage so much. I actually think about it a lot in terms of parenting…..I want God to show my kids the amazing power, value and identity they have in Christ…..because until they are secure in it, its virtually impossible to follow Christ’s example here in a healthy way.

this is probably a crass way of saying it….but we need to know we have power, before we can give it away…..

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