“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5
Humility has a tremendous amount to do with what one thinks of himself or herself. A humble (sometimes translated lowly) person is not of lesser value or merit than anyone else, instead this is esteeming oneself in a healthy manner. They do not think too little of themselves because they understand their value and position in Christ. They do not think too much of themselves so that they believe they are better than others. Once a believer understands God has blessed us because of the matchless goodness of Christ, not of anything we might bring to the table, then we begin to view ourselves in the proper light. We only have because He has given.
This command to serve out of humility is in direct contrast to the two negatives that precede it (selfish ambition and vain conceit). Selfish ambition (selfishness, strife, faction) is the idea of putting everyone around us in the boxing ring and making them contenders against our belt. We set ourselves up as the champ, and we want to outdo each person that comes along so that we can remind others (and ourselves) that we are better than they are. We could equate this as to having a spirit of contention wherewith we want to prove we have more talent, intelligence, courage, nicer belongings, beauty, wealth, or to prove we are just downright better than they are. Selfish ambition has its roots in a couple of primary areas:
- This type of person is preoccupied with their own importance. They strive for attention and always want to be center stage so that people are looking at them.
- They monopolize conversations and discredit other people’s ideas or contributions. They are always waiting on their next chance to speak rather than listening to what others have to say.
- They truly believe they are deservant of more than other people. What they have is never enough because their appetites for material things are insatiable. They want to outdo everyone, and they’ll usually pout when they are unable to be victorious (whether that be in a contest or at a game of checkers).
- They are constantly judging other people based on their appearance, intellect, or by any means they can to get the upper hand. This type of person will gladly tear another down so that they may feel better about themselves.
It is my opinion that people who strive to live their lives out of selfish ambition are generally very unhappy with themselves. More than likely they have very low self-confidence and try to make up for it by being flamboyant or extremely “self-confident”. Deep down they want to be liked and loved. They feel as though they can win people over by impressing them. Unfortunately, there is no holiness in such efforts.
The second ugly twin is vain conceit (empty pride). It is any vain opinion about oneself. As you can see it is very similar to selfish ambition. Both are rooted in Lucifer’s original sin of pride. This word is more about self-esteem and how we value ourselves. Conceit is thinking more of yourself than you should, and it always puts oneself before others. I believe this negative attribute can also grow out of low self-esteem just as easily as it can out of a puffed up self-perception. If you don’t like yourself you might feel the constant need to brag about your accomplishments. You always have to prove something to others (that can get extremely tiresome). At times you might even pretend to be humble so others will build you up (that, too, is pretty twisted, but sin always perverts the truth).
Understand this, humility is not weakness or insecurity. Instead, it is strength and being secure in who you are in Christ. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Scripture also reminds us that pride precedes a fall…not to mention the embarrassment and heartache that come with the fall. Lastly, God promised that He will (definitely at some point in time) humble those who are incapable of humbling themselves, “Whoever exalts himself will [most assuredly] be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
Humility is a sign of spiritual health. Modesty does not need someone else to flatter us with words or make us feel complete. We already have that in ourselves because of Christ. Having the proper sense of self-worth will enable you to serve others, to allow others to get attention, to find out how they are doing, to listen (and to hear), and to be encouraged. It helps them and it helps you. You’ll be reassured of who you are because you’ll be confident in God’s undying love for you (and love never fails)!