By Bruce Thweatt
Enumclaw Community Church
Do you ever wonder what it would be like if everyone was as thoughtful about the needs and well-being of others as they were about themselves? I do wonder about it from time to time, usually when I see the impact someone’s thoughtless (unintentional) selfishness has had on someone else. It isn’t hard to see on any given day. Someone in the checkout line with a full cart … but it’s the express lane and you are running late with your one item; or someone passing the whole line of cars on the shoulder because they are in a hurry but are sure you will stop and let them in (since they are moving over anyway, you sort of have to); or someone giving the store clerk or food server a hard time because they want something special.
It isn’t meant to be mean or harmful, at least sometimes it isn’t but sometimes don’t you wonder? But it causes problems and stirs up anger and resentment just the same and often it gets a reaction. I think it is easy to get so busy, to have so many things going on at once, that we just don’t realize how much effect we have on the people around us, especially the people we don’t know.
I’ve been thinking about a verse in Philippians that says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It isn’t that there is anything inherently wrong with looking after your own interests, but when we only look after our own interests it becomes terribly easy to mistreat others. And to take this a little further, Paul writes this instruction to introduce the idea that we should learn to think the way that Jesus thought about others. Paul describes Jesus as setting his position and entitled privileges aside so he could come to earth and serve our interests. So if Jesus is the example of what it means to “look to the interests of others,” then we have a long way to go to follow this example.
Imagine if our problem-solving efforts at every level were recognizably governed by people’s obvious efforts to look out for each other – instead of just the interests of this group or that group. In fact what if “special interest groups” became a synonym for people who were trying to find the best solution for everyone and not another way to describe a way of corrupting governmental systems? What if the passion for or against any political or social or economic changes were driven by concern for how it impacts others and the desire to see everyone benefit?
Perhaps you think I am milking way too much from one verse? But what if that was the way we all thought and acted? Wouldn’t you find the world a better place if we all had the same attitude that was found in Jesus? And if we all fell short, but kept trying, wouldn’t it change the world? So I pray that I may learn to look after the interests of others and that we may all learn a better way to live together.