the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
The most fundamental characteristic of the Christian walk is to think of others more highly than yourself. I'm not suggesting humility is a work that secures our salvation. Rather, I am saying, people who are born again must make this the most important pursuit of their lives. Thus, the apostle Paul instructed the Philippian Believers to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).
When you cultivate a lifestyle of honoring others above yourself (Romans 12:10) you will find yourself swimming against the tide of public opinion and human nature. The world tells us to “look out for number one” and to develop our self esteem. Indeed, “In the late 1980s, a California government task force found no connection between low self-esteem and societal ills, such as drug use, teen pregnancy, and school underachievement. Still, California forged ahead with a self-esteem education plan” (found at scholastic.com) It wasn't long before the rest of the nation followed suit. “The Gallup Organization has, for 60 years, conducted annual surveys of a broad range of opinions among teenagers in the United States. In the inaugural survey, taken in 1950, just 5 percent of American teens answered 'yes' to the question, 'Are you a very important person?' In 2010, 80 percent of teens in the survey answered 'yes' to that question. One fears for the future of a nation whose youth, so far behind most other developed nations in empirical measurements of educational achievement, suffer so heavily from narcissism” (found at ricochet.com)
Self esteem education is easy to “teach” because love of self is the natural human condition. Even people who claim to hate themselves are typically suffering from an overdeveloped sense of self worth; their frustration has its source in the belief that they have been short-changed in some way. It's not that they hate themselves, they hate how life is treating them.
The Bible never tells us to love ourselves but repeatedly enjoins us to love others. We are told to imitate Christ who is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29) and Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8). This is what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. It means to be like him, dying to self each and every day and living to Christ.
Yet esteeming others first does not mean you'll be a “door mat.” Jesus wasn't a “door mat” and he often did things that made other people uncomfortable or even angry. You see, thinking of others first in a Christ like fashion requires wisdom. It doesn't mean we do whatever everyone else wants. It means we do what is best for the other person, even at great cost to ourselves. It means we understand our life, our talents, our possessions are not our own but the Lord's – to be used as he sees fit. In other words, the antithesis to self esteem not simply doing everything to please other people but is Christ esteem.
When we esteem Christ first, we will live to please him. When we live to please him we think of others more highly than our-self. When we think of others more highly than our-self we do what is best for our brother or sister even if it initially leaves everyone uncomfortable.
Next week: esteeming Christ in hose “hard to reach” ways.