Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.-Philippians 2:3
This morning, I was pondering atheism and I began to wonder how highly correlated atheism and selfishness are. When one believes there is no higher thing in the universe than oneself, when one believes that "survival of the fittest" is the name of the game, it seems to me that selfishness is an expected outcome. Atheism flows from believing one is the most important. The effects of this viewpoint are wide-ranging and unfortunate--from cheating to abortion to genocide, considering oneself as better than others can have profoundly unfortunate effects.
Sadly, it seems that our society is increasingly moving in a direction in which selfishness is viewed admirably. We dress it up with language like "self-esteem", but if you examine it more closely, the message being taught is "there is no one more important than you are." The admirable goal of teaching people how to think rightly about themselves has given way to thinking more highly of themselves than is appropriate and I believe this is damaging.
Our society is increasingly structured around those who make much of themselves. It is impossible to turn on the television without seeing some celebrity reveling in his own "awesomeness." It seems that politics has moved from the good of the people to the good of the politician. Examples are legion.
In this cultural light, Paul's words to the Philippians seem foreign, even stupid. "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." I like the way the NIV renders Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves". What a countercultural message! Be humble. Count others better than yourselves. Don't be selfish or vain.
What would politics look like if our politicians did nothing from selfish ambition? What would the sports world look like if top athletes did nothing from vain conceit? What would families look like if members counted others as more significant than themselves? I believe we would see significant improvements in our families, in our schools, and in our society. But to be sacrificially loving and truly humble...well...that could require divine intervention.