Friday, January 21, 2011

Look Not to Your Own Interests

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 (NIV)
 I'm not sure how to get down this idea rattling around in my head, which is sparked by these verses.   A significant segment of American society values the idea of the "self-made man" --  the "rugged individual" who has "done it my way" and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps to run a major corporation.  It's a mean side of society of one person carving out a privileged place from which to stand on another person's head in a scramble up some vaulted social ladder.  How did our culture fall into valuing such bald selfish ambition with it's attending vain conceit?

There is another view of America.  The underside or shadows-lurking side where violence is assumed to be part of the expectation to protect personal property or personal opinion.  To look out for our own interests permits us to buy and use a gun or a knife or extortion to the point that assassination and murder are not just contemplated, but carried out daily on street corners in every city.

Both of these pictures conjure up disturbing and unwanted images in our spirit.  These two pictures ARE the result of selfish ambition and vain conceit -- where we each take on the belief our needs are most important, even to the cost of blood.  There IS another vision though.  It's possible to see a cycle of concern and caring for another person curving around on itself resulting in each of us receiving back more than we put into it. 

It's possible through a Christian lens to see that responding to another person's need inspires that person to help another that inspires another person to help another until it reaches back around and aids us in our own need, and all are lifted up.  If you're burdened in needs that you can't seem to shake or get out from under could it be due to a frustrated wrestling with and looking after your own special interests?

There is no question that the Christian vision is broken since guns are still going off in Safeway stores and High Schools.  But it should not be this way.  There ARE so many ways to do good to another.  I offer you the reflective contemplation of the next few minutes to let your imagination take flight with the others in your life who have interests, worries, grieves, concerns, weights that you could aid.  I wonder often if depression is so rampant because gratitude and recognition is so miserly protected.  A book I saw at the bookstore the other night was called The Art of Thank You: Crafting Notes of Gratitude.  Aid to another can be a prayer, a thank you note, a phone call, a small gift, a cup of tea.... how can you look to others' interests?  I trust this word from God will sow seeds of help that will come back as a rich harvest that will feed your own needs AND spirit!

O God, may the acts of concern for others become a blessing not only to them, but to ourselves as well.  Amen.

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