Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1966
NUMBER 26, PAGE 2b-3

Better Than Self

Robert C. Welch

Humility is one of the greatest characteristics of a Christian. When he is humble before God and before his brethren his nobility is at its highest peak. Out of fear a man might be humble before God, but because there is no such fear of man he might have no humility in his relationships with others of his kind. On the other hand, because they are present and because he can see no further than his present situation, a man might have a show of humility before his fellow man; but at the same time have no fear of God, who is not seen, and therefore have no humility before him. There is a tendency in men to seek to show themselves better than others. Christians are taught that they cannot have this attitude:

"Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. (Phil. 2:3, 4)

Influence For Good

Every man should seek to wield the greatest influence which is possible for him. But this should not be in rivalry. It should not be for the purpose of boasting or being lifted up with pride. A preacher should seek by study and effort to be the best preacher which is possible for him to be, and to have the greatest influence which is possible for him to have among the brethren and in the world. But his motive should be to render acceptable service to the Lord and help to his fellow man. God forbid that he should have such motives as ambitions to have a name that is above his fellow preachers, that the brotherhood should look upon him as the outstanding preacher of his generation.

With the Lord's work, the Lord's church and the Lord's people at heart, a man may seek the office of a bishop. But may he never seek such a good work with the ambition to be over his brethren, demanding that they respect his authority, and to have them look up to him in subjection and give honor to him. Such an attitude is vainglorious. A teacher of others needs to be careful lest he become autocratic, dogmatic and dictatorial. - Many teachers cannot stand to be questioned or contradicted in their statements. They seem to have the feeling that they have been elevated above their fellow students and that they have the right to demand abject acquiescence and obeisance. Such a disposition is vainglorious.

Esteeming Others

None but a humble man can esteem others better than himself. This does not grant him the right to excuse himself from duty, service and influence of which he is capable. It means that when he is doing what he can he realizes that he is not the only one, and that he is no more deserving of favor, respect or commendation than any other.

If this lesson to the church at Philippi could be learned by all the Lord's people we would have no trouble about "the authority of the elders." This statement of Paul's is addressed to the bishops as well as to the deacons and other saints (Phil. 1:1). Much of the problem today is in attitude, the attitude of some elders, the attitude of some members, and the propagation of such improper attitudes by preachers who fail to see what the results will be. If the man who is in the position of overseer will "in lowliness of mind... esteem other better than himself;" he will have immediately removed the excuse of some of the members for rebellion against their oversight. It is hard to rebel against someone who claims no power. Trouble arises, however, when the overseers forget this principle of humility for themselves, and begin to think only of how the rest of the saints should esteem the elders. When they do this they have taken a position of vainglory, esteeming themselves better than others. It is no wonder then that the rest of the saints do not have the proper respect for them.

When the principle of humility is applied by the saints, though, they will be in subjection to the rulers or overseers. They will esteem the overseers as better than self. They will "esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work's sake." (1 Thess. 5:13). They will respect the judgment, the wisdom of the decisions and the example of the elders. This relationship between the elders and the saints is a two way street. And if both the elders and the saints are humbly walking in their duties, esteeming others better than self, there will be no conflict. Instead, there will be harmonious progress of the gospel.

This same principle will apply in all phases of life. If the husband decides that, because he is the head of the wife, he can become a despot and tyrant, that he can demand obedience of his spouse, he is headed for trouble. If the wife decides that, because of modern conditions, she is not required to show any respect for her husband as the head, she is likewise headed for trouble. But if each will realize humbly their God-given positions and duties; and if each will in lowliness of mind esteem the other better than self, they can enjoy a lifelong unity as God designed it.

The business man who has no respect for the welfare of those who work for him, who considers not their needs physically and financially, who is only concerned about what he can get from them, rather than what they can together accomplish for the welfare of both, is devoid of the humility which the Lord requires. On the other hand, those who forget that they are working for another, and that he who hires them and pays them has the right to expect services worthy of their hire, have contemned humility, esteeming themselves better than others.

The Things Of Others

Those who have to have their way in the church, in the family, or many phase of life, need this lesson of the Holy Spirit on humility; "not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others." The inability to practice this principle has been the cause of many divisions in business, family and church. Perhaps far more church troubles and splits have been the result of people having to have their way about petty matters of indifference than over matters of faith. In such affairs in the church it is not a matter of majority vote. It should be a matter of each looking to the things of others instead of his own things. This will result in unanimity.

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