I’ve long been convinced that when it comes to Christian living (or just living in general) one verse, practiced consistently would have the greatest impact:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others
The context and grammar underscores and emphasizes that this should be practiced in the community of faith by each one towards another. Each one is called to be aware of what others may need, and to consider how best to respond to that person’s need. It is the practical outworking of the exhortation of verse 3 towards selflessness and humility:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Essentially, we are to take a servant viewpoint, to develop an attitude and practice of helpfulness, rather than seeking “what’s in it for me?” or “how will this affect me?” And it is a mindset that should permeate all areas of life…not just when we are on display at church!
Yes, we have our needs, our interests, and our priorities, but they are not to make up our life choices, rather we are to have a broad enough view so as to see the needs of others as a priority. Of course, if we were all putting this into practice, others would be looking out for our needs even as we do the same for others.
Imagine the impact:
- if a wife looked to her husband’s interests as more important than her own? And then acted on it.
- if a husband did what was meaningful and important to his wife? Maybe fixed the broken door, vacuumed the carpet, or just talked with her.
- if a child looked out for his sister or brother, or even his parents?
- if instead of demanding the perks of position, serve those who work below you.
- if you helped those “under you” to do well and succeed.
- if we looked for opportunities to make a difference in a life.
Paul places this passage in a context of unity. A significant element in the practice of unity seems to be thinking and living sacrificially for others without taking into account our own importance (real of imagined).