Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (NKJV)
In the King James Version, this verse reads, “Let nothing be done throughstrifeorvainglory;but in lowliness of mindleteachesteemothers better thanthemselves”. The word rendered as strife in this specific verse is the Greek word Eritheia. It is only used in one other place besides the New Testament, and that is in the writings of Aristotle where “it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means (1).” Literally, it means to have a “desire to put one’s self forward with a partisan and fractious spirit (2)”, willing to go to any means necessary to get ahead. This is more than just being “selfish”. It goes beyond that to being willing to hurt, cheat, exploit or neglect others just to promote oneself.
This word is used in five other places in the New Testament:
Romans 2:6-8- He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking (Eritheia) and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
2 Cor 12:20- For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility (Eritheia), slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
Galatians 5:19-21- Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife (Eritheia), jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
James 3:13-18- Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition (Eritheia) in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition (Eritheia) exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Eritheia, or “selfish- ambition”, is not of God. Galatians says, “Those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God” and James says, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic”. Let me make this quite clear: hurting another person for your own gain is “evil practice” (James 3).
The Word of God is consistently telling believers to put the needs of others first- especially, the spiritual growth and faith of another believer.
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples (Greek- Asthenema: infirmity, of error arising from weakness of mind) of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself” (Romans 15:1-3).
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16).
He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curse. (Proverbs 28:27)
As Christians, we are to make it our practice to shed our own egos, and focus on the needs and wellbeing of others. We are to be like Christ- making ourselves nothing, becoming servants to others.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-9)
So ask yourself this: Who do you promote- Yourself, or Christ? Who do you serve- Yourself or others? Who do you please- Yourself or God? When your focus is on yourself, “your flesh”, it is not on Christ. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
If you promote yourself, you are living in the flesh and cannot please God.
Instead, deny yourself, and promote Christ. That will not only please God, but it will glorify Him as well.