Philippians 2:3 is a very rich little verse. First it instructs us not do anything from “selfish ambition or conceit.” Then these two negative attributes are countered by the positive attitude of humility. The verse continues, 12 calvin“…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Conceit says “I’m better than you.” Selfish ambition drives me to prove myself to be better than you. But God always reverses the world’s values. The opposite of conceit is humility and that’s what God wants us to be. The opposite of promoting myself is the promotion of others. Things work differently than the world thinks. It says seeing myself better will make me happy. But truthfully it will do just the opposite. Striving to prove myself better than others is a miserable unhappy way to live.

The priorities in the life of those controlled by the flesh principle, is me first! You are second, and God is last. Grammatically speaking it makes perfect sense. We even call “I,” “Me” and “us” the first person. We call “You” and “You all” the second person and we call “him or her” and “them” the third person. But God teaches us to reverse that order. The third person, God, is to be first in our lives. The second person, you, is to be second in our lives, and the first person, I and me, are to be third in my life. Jesus established this order Himself in the Gospels when he said “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” This flies in the face of our “self-esteem” oriented world. The psycho-babel jargon of today preaches the message of self-esteem. Of course we must recognize our value as unique individuals in God’s eyes, but when self-esteem promotes the idea that we’re better than others it exaggerates our value at the expense of others. We’re called to celebrate the value of others or to consider their worth before our own. J O Y really is found in putting Jesus first, others second, and yourself last!

Joseph Boren of the University of Virginia says, “Studies suggest that too much self-esteem is a lot worse than too little.” It suggests that the individual pursuit of self-esteem in our society may very well end up doing much more harm than good. Boren says, “You’ve got a lot of people running around with seriously inflated egos who come crashing to earth all the time.” He goes on to add, “The study found aggressive, violent and hostile people—such as neo-Nazis, wife-beaters and members of the Ku Klux Klan—”consistently express favorable views of themselves.” The study goes on, “These people are often violent precisely because they already believe themselves to be superior beings.” One responder to this study said, “Perhaps it would be better to try instilling modesty and humility.” Hmmm, now that’s a thought.