Question: "How can we be looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)?"
Answer: Humans come pre-equipped with a natural tendency to look out for “number one.” No one usually needs to remind us to consider our wants and needs above others’. But Jesus Christ, who exemplifies how we are to live as believers, modeled humble, selfless love in everything He did. Imagine what a different world it would be if every Christian took this challenge to heart: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).
The Greek verb translated “look” (ESV), “look out” (NLT), or “looking to” (NIV) in English versions of Philippians 2:4 means “to turn one’s attention, interests, or expectations toward something and respond accordingly.” Looking out for the interests of others involves always keeping our eyes wide open to discover new opportunities to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). No longer are we to live according to our old, self-serving nature because Jesus gave us this new command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).
Jesus looked out for the interests of others by emptying Himself of His exalted position and “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8). Christ did all this so that we might be saved (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).
Nothing would have given the apostle Paul greater joy than to see the Philippian believers living a life of sacrifice and unity: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:2–3, NLT).
Humility promotes not only unity in the church but also a profound interest in and concern for others. Paul told the Romans, “We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith” (Romans 15:2, GWT). The exercise of our spiritual freedom in Christ must always be balanced by our desire to build up and benefit other believers (1 Corinthians 10:24). Paul himself did not seek his “own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33, NET). He urged his readers to follow his lead as he followed Christ’s (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Paul held up his protégé Timothy as a shining representative of a believer looking out for the interests of others: “If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News” (Philippians 2:19–22, NLT).
We can be looking out for the interests of others by following the example of Ruth, who forsook her homeland to care for her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 2:11). Or it may require living like the earliest Christian evangelists who were “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:8–11).
A distinctive mark of Christian love is that “it is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Self-centeredness has no place in the body of Christ. If we are to look out for the interests of others, then we must love people like Jesus did: “Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18).