Jeff

Phillipians 2:1-11: Regard others better than yourself

JeffWe are to “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). As the Messiah considered mankind more important than His standing with YHWH, so too, we should consider our brothers and sisters in faith worth our humbling ourselves. When God went to such lengths to make peace with us, we should be willing to go to great lengths to make peace and keep peace with others.

Our unity as fellow believers in Yeshua as God’s Messiah is not “group think” but rooted in love for one another and giving one another the benefit of the doubt. We need to think carefully about what issues are non-negotiable. There are many issues that we divide over that are really negotiable and not that important. We also have a few tidbits of practical advise on how to deal with tale-bearing, gossip and dissension. 

In the past two excursions we’ve taken from Yeshua’s apocalyptic discourse in Luke 21, Matthew 24–25 and Mark 13, we studied the Torah teachings of taming לשון הרע lashon ha-ra (“evil tongue”) and proportionality in judgment with the goal of restoration of all parties involved. This is sorely missing in our modern time but we should not be surprised by this. We have been warned that the spirit of peacemaking will be in short supply in the last days. As we go through this list, we can see some of these apply directly to us. God has told us these things to help see ourselves and to turn these over to God. 

What do these things have to do with the “end times” Yeshua predicted? Consider Paul’s warning to Timothy:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2Ti. 3:1–5)

… and a similar warning sent to believers in Rome:

“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. 1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.” (Rom. 1:28–2:2)

We have seen in recent decades how popular American culture exults the “anti-hero” who is a contemptible person but since he or she is less contemptible than the others, they are seen as the protagonist. One of America’s most popular TV shows was a show in which a Mafia boss was the hero of the show. He was lifted up as the “good” guy. This is an example of exalting the contemptible. I worry when I see myself cheering the “anti-hero.” It means my internal compass is off-kilter. 

We might take comfort in the fact that we don’t have a “depraved mind” that thinks of not only what’s listed in that passage but also trends toward behaviors mentioned earlier in Romans 1. However, envy, gossip, and its more wicked twin slander, come out of a heart leaning in the direction of “hating” God. 

 Yeshua said kosher speaking comes from a kosher heart:

“ ‘Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.’” (Mt. 15:17–20; cp. Mark 7, esp. Mark 7:20–23)

And peace-making ― bringing mankind properly back together with each other and with God ― is at the heart of the Torah. There are object lessons here that show us where God’s heart is and where He is taking us. Indeed, it’s integral to God’s greatest and second-greatest commands:

“ ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’ ” (Dt. 6:4–9)

“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. (Lv. 19:17–18)

The binding of these texts on the forehead and the hand is seen in the Jewish practice of tefillin. These boxes have certain scriptures in them. 

Just as there are certain words to put on one’s physical head and hand, there is also the practice of the mezzuah. It’s a container that holds Scripture on our homes’ doorposts, our מְזוּזֹת mezzuzot, is a symbol of God’s writing His laws on our hearts (Deut. 6:6; cf. Jer. 31:31–34). The Torah describes the dwelling place of the glory of God, the מִשְׁכָּן Mishkan (H4908), and key to the presence of God is His creation and restoration of the people called Yisrael, who are to be a light house or a beacon throughout time of God’s order, God’s government.  The nations were supposed to look at Yisrael and see a reflection of God.

Isaiah was speaking as Babylon was coming in to conquer Israel. Everything that God had built up from the time of Moses to this time was fading away.The kings of the 10 Northern Tribes had abandoned him 100% but even in the South in Judah, many of the kings are lukewarm at best in their leadership of the people towards God.

“ ‘Remember these things, O Ya’acob, and Yisrael, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. 22 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” 23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the Lord has redeemed Ya’acob, and in Yisrael He shows forth His glory. (Isa. 44:21–23)  

Only a small number of the tribes of Israel return to the land after Babylon. Every time God exiled and restored Israel to the land, only a small number returned to the land. 

We’ve discussed before that the Hebrew words for:

  • heart, לב leb/lev, in the Bible refer to emotions, motivations and your drive.
  • soul, נפש nefesh, what makes us alive and what we do as a result, i.e., behavior.
  • strength, מאד m’ed, might, i.e., resources.

If we are truly loving God with all of our emotions, behavior and resources, then we should be loving other people the way God loves us.

Today, we will go deeper into this love God has for us and that God wants us to have for each other. A passage I learned long ago as a warning against arrogance is Phil. 2:3,  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves….” But the first 11 verses of Philippians 2 provide a deeper insight into why “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:14; σκηνόω skenowmishkan) and how that is an example for us. I hope this will help us see how we are to put into practice the first and second greatest commandments.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Iesous, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Iesous ‘every knee will bow,’ of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Iesous Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:1–11)

The Greeks had many more words for love than we do in either Hebrew or English. In Phil. 2:2, I want to focus on the phrase “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (v.2). The word for love in this verse is the word agape (ἀγάπη (G26)). The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature describes agape as, “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, affection, regard, love.” It is to be an unselfish love, that does not expect to be reciprocated. 

The word agape is the word the Septuagint uses to translate the word אהבה ahavah (love) found in Deut. 6:4 and Lev. 19:18.

Now, let’s look at the next phrase in Phil. 2:2, “united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” 

  • united = σύμψυχος  sumpsuchos (G4861) from σύν sun (G4862), with, together with, and ψυχή psuche (G5590), breath, the soul.
  • one purpose = φρονέω phroneo (G5426), to think, understand, from φρήν phren (G5424), midriff, heart, mind, thought.

Yeshua added the word “mind” to the commandment to love God with all your heart, soul and strength. 

Yeshua prayed for such unity while celebrating Pesakh with the Twelve before the crucifixion:

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. … 20 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (Jn. 17:11–12, 20–23)

In America, we don’t treat names as seriously as people in the Bible did. In the Bible, naming a child was taken very seriously because the name the child carried a great weight. It was a prophecy of that child’s reputation. God’s name is even more important. The “name” of God Yeshua bore was God’s reputation and authority as Savior ― shalom-maker ― of Israel, and through it, the world. We are to be at peace, not only with God, but with each other. In this prayer, Yeshua is praying that as He is the Shalom-maker, that His followers will be Shalom-makers. 

The sign of that authority, that reputation, to the world was the power of shalom-making between mankind and God to extend to shalom-making between those who trust in God as Creator, Sustainer and Restorer. 

The Phariasees were not a monolithic group, they had divisions in themselves such as the school of Hillel and the school of Shammai, there were also Essenes, Sadducees, etc. 

Our failure to refrain from carelessly creating differences in Israel and failing to resolve conflicts reflects badly on God’s reputation. It risks making the name of God “vain,” of no substance. It will be an identifying characteristic of Yeshua’s community. If we are having challenges making peace. We are failing as peacemakers terribly when we argue over the calendar feast days, etc. When we divide ourselves into 40,000 different denominations, we are not showing peace to non-believers. 

Now, let’s look at Phil. 2:3, which says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” 

The word that is translated as selfishness is the Greek word ἐριθεία eritheia (G2052), which means rivalry mied with ambition and comes from the root ἐριθεύω epitheuo, which means to work for hire. Aristotle at the time of the first century A.D. used the word eritheia to communicate the sense of “self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means” like a political consultant, a paid hit-man. 

 The meaning of strife or contentiousness could be valid, given Paul’s use of ἔρις epis (strife) and ἐριθεῖαι in lists of congregational problems in 2Cor. 12:20 and Gal. 5:20.

We all have seen people, who either in the political or church scene who love to make incendiary comments to attract attention and to revel in the political or spiritual distress their comments create. 

Why does this matter? Because we are to “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (v. 3) As the Messiah considered mankind more important than His standing with YHWH, so too, we should consider our brothers and sisters in faith worth our humbling ourselves. When God went to such lengths to make peace with us, we should be willing to go to great lengths to make peace and keep peace with others. 

Our unity is not “group think” but rooted in love for one another and giving one another the benefit of the doubt. We need to think carefully about what issues are non-negotiable. There are many issues that we divide over that are really negotiable and not that important. 

So here are some tools to het you respond better when confronted with tale-bearing:

“A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor.” (Prov. 12:16)

“A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.” (Prov. 12:16 KJV)

“A fool expresses his anger at once, but the prudent hides his own disgrace.” (Prov. 12:16 LXX)

If you’re the bearing tales about other people’s foibles or one spreading divisive ideas or comments, stop and turn back to God and others. Reconcile with the one whose tale you bear and with those you spread the tale to.

If you’re the victim of a gossip or slanderer, stop yourself from lashing out at the insult, whether overtly or “passive-aggressively.”

Settle the matter between you two in private.

If you’re the audience for a tale-bearer or divider, change the subject, say you don’t want to hear about private matters and, if that doesn’t communicate the problem, leave the conversation.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.


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