Sometimes the dog-eat-dog world of life brings us to the point of exhaustion, and we just want to sit back and be served. And some people approach serving the Lord Jesus Christ in that manner. People shop for a church as they would shop for a car, looking for the best deal. And they wonder why they find fault with just about every church. People often attend church with the attitude of “serve me” and wonder why they leave a worship service feeling empty. But it does not have to be that way if we are aware that the enemy uses our natural or fleshly selfish instincts in dominating our worship and service to Christ, thereby pulling us away from the blessings found in submitting to Him and His word.
Romans 12:9–13 (ESV) — 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Notice the actions commanded in God’s word. Particularly notice the word, “outdo.” Many times, a worldly approach is used in serving God by creating a little competition. In the old days, churches would run contests to see who could bring the most people to church. A common fund-raising technique is to pit people against each other so as to raise the bar as if giving were like an auction. The Bible is clear, however, that we are not to strive with one another so as to win because that is a form of selfish pride that God hates.
James 4:1–10 (ESV) — 1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Outdoing one another is showing honor to another. This is very similar to the commandments to “submit to one another” or to “stir up one another to love and good works.” This is like a reverse competition in that the desire is to promote the other person at your own expense.
Ephesians 5:20–21 (ESV) — 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV) — 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Philippians 2:3 (ESV) — 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
It’s a matter of anti-pride and it’s a guard against pride because it’s a form of humbling yourself before God as you submit to Him as Lord. And what is the promise for those who humble themselves?
Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV) — 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
God will lift you up and God will calm your anxieties as you enjoy His care for you. The door is opened as you seek to outdo one another in honor and love. The door is closed as you approach life looking for what you can get from God and others. So, what is it going to be?