When we are faced with times of uncertainty our natural response can be to become self-absorbed. We become preoccupied with making sure our needs are met—first and foremost! We have seen glaring examples of this in recent days with runs on grocery stores and hoarding of supplies. But more subtle forms of these behaviors can also be found in manipulation, jealousy, and covetousness.
There is a backdoor impoverishment that comes with selfish-priority. In our obsession to make sure we are being filled with things like possessions, provisions, securities, we end up emptying ourselves of things like compassion, consideration, love. What a tragedy to be left with everything we think we need and nothing of what others most need.
In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul answers the problem of selfishness with a call to otherness. He writes, “Do nothing from selfishness of empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
It is a good thing to model otherness when we are among people who are anxious and prone to put themselves first. But the truth is, practicing otherness is also of great value for us when we are threatened with anxious uncertainty. For in stepping outside of ourselves we find solidarity with God.
I recall the words of the hymn, “God, Whose Giving”:
“Skills and time are ours for pressing
Toward the goals of Christ, Thy Son:
Men at peace in health and freedom,
Races joined, the church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
Lest we strive for self alone;
Born with talents make us servants
Fit to answer at Thy throne.”
In calling us to practice otherness, Paul gives us this incentive: “that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes today to see those around me and open my hands to care for their need.