About eighteen months ago I introduced a new series called “Do You Take This Verse?. It was to be a regular blog feature, but life and other writing endeavors intervened. Well finally, I am able to return to it and share the second post in the series. Lord willing, the next one won’t take another eighteen months!

The name of the series is a play on words that brings together what has been traditionally asked during a marriage ceremony (“Do you take this woman/man?”) with the idea of living out Bible verses in our marriages.

My hope for this series is to lift up God’s word and see it applied in our lives to the fullest. That includes in our marriages. While there are some verses in the Bible that we would be quick to apply to marriage, there are many more that could be applied that we may not immediately put into that category. It’s fruitful to consider those relevant verses and examine how well we live them in our roles as wives. It is a God honoring exercise that can have a profound impact on our sanctification and relationships.

The first verse in this series was 1 Corinthians 10:31. It seemed like a very appropriate place to start. If you’d like to read that post, you can find it here. Today we are going to look at Philippians 2:3.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3)

Before we look at how this verse could be lived out in marriage, let’s take a look at it in context. That, as always, is primary.

Backing up to Philippians 2:1, we see the word “Therefore”. This is a signal that what is about to follow is connected with what was just said. Near the end of chapter one, Paul admonishes the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ and to be unified and unafraid of their opponents. (Philippians 1:27-28) The call to unity is repeated in the beginning of chapter 2. (Philippians 2:1-2) Today’s verse comes next. In it, Paul puts forth commands that, amongst other things, could help facilitate their unity. It is a call to humility that presents Jesus us our example.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  (4)  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  (5)  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  (6)  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  (7)  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  (8)  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8)

There is great theological richness about Jesus in these verses; so much to study and marvel at! For our purposes, we see that our verse is given profound meaning by Him and His work. He, being God incarnate, humbled Himself more than any human ever could. Can we even really understand the humility involved in God becoming man? Whatever our comprehension of it, He is our example. He willingly emptied Himself and in obedience to His Father, died on a cross for our salvation. He humbled Himself to the point of dying for others. We are to have the same attitude Jesus had and be willing to lower ourselves and look out for the well-being of others.  (See also: Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, Matthew 22:39)

Taken In Marriage

In seeking to apply Philippians 2:3 to marriage, I am going to include Philippians 2:4 too since it is so closely connected. Taking both together we find a clear list of how we are to live:

 Do nothing from selfishness (“… selfish ambition” – ESV) (“… through strife”- KJV)
 Do nothing from empty conceit
Have humility of mind
Regard others as more important than yourself
Don’t only look out for your own personal interests
Look out for the interests of others too

What a list! These things can run hard against our natures and contrast greatly with the message that we get from our culture that we should look out for number one – ourselves. Yet, the commands in these verses are God’s will for us; and His way is far better than the worlds.

How much of an impact have these verses had in your life thus far? Have you felt the weight of them and been convicted to obey them to the glory of God? If so, have you thought about living them out not only in your relationships with others in general but also in your marriage specifically? Have you intentionally sought to reflect the humility of Christ in your role as a wife and seen your husband as one of the others they speak of?

I have been convicted by these verses a number of times. I know how challenging they can be and the growth they can effect. I don’t doubt it’s why I chose them for the second post in this series. Reflecting on them again is a good exercise for me. It gives me another opportunity to consider my ways, repent, and make changes to better walk in obedience to God. Please join me out of a desire to be pleasing to our Lord to look honestly and make changes if need be. We can take encouragement from the fact that God is at work in us as we work. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Hard questions to consider

Below are some questions to consider to help you take this verse in your marriage. They are given to aid reflection. The most important thing is to listen to any conviction that may come when you read and pray about our verses.

Are there times or situations in which you work towards selfishly advancing yourself, get full of yourself, or get absorbed with your own interests in regards to your marriage and husband? Check your ambitions. It is not bad to have them, but it does matter why we have them and how we seek to fulfill them. Are your motives good? Are you working for both you and your husband or just for you at his expense? Are there any issues involving careers, possessions, or relationships in which you have been selfishly putting yourself first? Some examples might be having to drive the better car, make more money, or get a higher education. Another might be competing with your husband for the affection of your children. If you serve at church, do you have the type of ambition that would conflict with these verses? It is good to want to serve, but if you pursue your desire at the expense of neglecting your husband, something is off.

Consider the following relationship matters too. When choices need to be made, do you automatically expect your preferences to take precedence over your husbands? Do you often assume that your way of doing things is always right or better than his? (I still remember the day I realized I thought like that. Pretty conceited. I’m thankful I do it a lot less, but I’m still working on it.) Do you think your time is more valuable than your husband’s? Do you talk over him because you think that what you have to say is more important? Do you consider his interests as less important than your own?

The list of questions could go on as there are many situations to consider, but I think that is enough to launch some good reflection. The hope is to love our husbands better by obeying God’s word more in our marriages. In the process, we become more sanctified as we follow His word more closely.

Walking in obedience    

Having putting forth the above, I’d like to now suggest some ways to help walk in greater obedience in this area in your marriage. They are just guides. We’re all in different situations, and I trust the conviction of the word and the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is needed personally.

Seek to maintain an ever-present attitude of humility that lifts your husband above yourself. Work on it daily. Keep the relevant verses in your mind and heart. Often consider the humility of Jesus, for it is our great example. Whenever you are going to be in your husbands presence, you might find it helpful to pray beforehand for the right mindset. If or when you slip out of it, ask the Lord for forgiveness, forgive yourself, and begin again. Growth will happen with the grace of God.

In whatever situations apply, don’t vie for honor or attention or position. Definitely don’t build yourself up at your husband’s expense. Give him preference. Be open to letting your way go. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. Additionally, value and tend to the things that matter to your husband.  Work for your good and for his. Look out for him. Be mindful of his interests and care for them.

A short story

Speaking of looking out for the interests of husbands, I’d like to share a short story about my husband’s wisdom that helped me live Philippians 2:4 better. Years ago when we were first married, I had more of a tendency to mainly look out for my own interests. It sometimes meant that my husband’s interests were neglected by me. We can say it was a learned survival mechanism from the past. While that may have been part of the cause, my own sinfulness was the other. Well, it did not take long for him to notice. During one of our many relationship conversations, he addressed it. He asked me, “If you are looking out for you and I am looking out for you, who is looking out for me?” Yeah, ouch. But he was right. I had work to do. Unfortunately, I heard that question a number of times before real change took place; but I share this because it did help me. Maybe it will help someone else see what they need to see.

Caveats 

Before I wrap this up, I am going to extend this post to address two things that must be said.

First, when we read “… regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3b), I want to stress that this is an attitude to hold not a literal statement on worth. Notice that it is reciprocal. In other words, each person is to regard the other as more important. Because it is reciprocal, no one actually is more important. Neither is worth more. I just wanted to point this out in case some go too far and slip into thinking they are not worth as much as their husband. That certainly is not true.

Secondly, when we read “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4), notice that it is ok to look out for your own personal interests.  I know some wives give and give and give and do not look out for their own interests. As a result, they burn out. The giving is beautiful, but I think it’s important to understand that looking out for your own interests is not forbidden. It’s not sinful.  It’s ok to look out for the things that matter to you. These verses do not present an extreme self-neglect. You can take care of your own interests while you also take care of your husband’s.

Think highly of humility

God’s word reveals to us that He values humility. He calls us to it and His Son embodied the greatest demonstration of it. Since Jesus humbled Himself as He did, we should not find it distasteful to do the same. Let’s embrace it and seek to walk humbly in our marriages to the glory of God.

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