Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5 ESV
“It mine!,” screamed my 8 year old at his big brother who tried to take a bite of his ice cream while hovering over the bowl, guarding it with his life.
“That’s mine!” little sister screamed at her brother who picked up her baby doll off the couch and tossed it up in the air like a football.
“Don’t touch my phone! It’s mine!” yells my teenager at his little brother who was trying to hack his password, so he could play a game.
Since the time my children were little, I tried to teach them one of the biggest social skills called SHARING. I never taught them to be selfish, in fact I tried to teach them quite the opposite. How did my child, who can barely phrase a full sentence, know how to argue and fight for their wants and desires?
After an exhausting day of parenting I called my mom and she reminded me that it was quite simple – it’s called sin. And we are all born with it. It comes with the fall of humanity all the way back to the Garden. When sin entered the world so did selfishness, self-centeredness, and “my way is the best way” thinking. It is a constant struggled for us as humans because it shows up so early in our lives, we see it in our children, and if you will be honest, we often see it in ourselves.
The struggle between the flesh and the Spirit is real. The flesh is naturally selfish, puts its needs above all else, and looks out only for its own interests. The Spirit considers the other before themselves, measures others with mercy and grace, and looks to the interests of others. Just glance back up at our key verse from Philippians 2.
While some of us may have a more kind and generous spirit than others because that is part of our gifting, make no mistake that a kind, generous and Christ-like spirit of humility only comes from the Holy Spirit who lives within you. Apart from Christ we are selfish people. While the world tells us to fight for what we deserve, the Spirit tells us to submit ourselves to God in humility and grace. This is not easy and we will struggle with this balance until we are perfected in Christ in eternity. So how do we balance this out and let the Spirit lead us when the flesh is so strong?
First, recognize that the fight IS between the flesh and Spirit. Sin is a real problem and just because we are followers of Christ it does not mean that we still don’t wrestle between the two. The enemy is real and loves to stir us up.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passion. James 4:1-3
Second, ask God to show you where you are selfish and childish and ask for forgiveness in a posture of humility. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:8b, 10
Third, be willing to submit your desires to the Lord. No matter how right you think they are, there is no better place for our wants, needs, or desires than in the Hands of God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. “ James 4:7-8a
Heavenly Father, We all struggle with wanting to be right, be in charge, or to get what we want. We ask that You help us to first recognize this struggle within us and choose to follow the Spirit. We also ask for forgiveness in falling prey to the enemy and allowing him to stir up fights and arguments among those we should love. Would You help us to submit our desires to You? Would You also help us to clothe ourselves in grace and mercy and show Christ to our neighbors and community that so desperately need to see You? In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.