Responsive Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
Key Verse(s): 2 Philippians 2:3-4
Background Scripture: Deuteronomy 15:7-11
Two weeks ago, I encouraged that when life seems unfair, we should lean on the Lord but some will choose not to lean on the Lord because they believe God is unfair. However, we know that God is more than fair because He is faithful and just. Yet, some will look around at the world today and they will ask, if God is so good and faithful, why does God allow bad things to happen? Why does God not intervene? I would ask, why do we not intervene? You see, maybe just maybe the onus is on us to do something about the bad.
The Freedom Given
Asking why God allows bad things to happen is akin to questioning the Lord’s sovereignty and His benevolence; this is questioning His rule and authority, along with questioning Him being perfect (benevolent). In order to answer the question about God allowing bad things to happen, let’s take a look at the Garden of Eden.
Freedom of choice
When God created mankind, He created us with the desire to dwell with His creation. Man was able to freely roam around in the garden with just one rule to keep; you see, just because they were living free, it did not mean that there were no rules to follow. Adam and Eve were instructed not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16).
That is the thing about freedom: it comes with instructions – guidelines – that one must follow in order to remain free. In other words, freedom comes with a choice. Just think about our “free” society – there are laws that we must abide by. Should we choose not to follow the laws of the land but break them, there would be consequences.
Now, we know how the story went for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-6). As Eve freely roamed in the garden the choice to be obedient or disobedient presented itself to her with the fruit of the tree. With Adam, the same choice presented itself when Eve gave him the fruit to eat. Now, we know the choice that they made – it is the same choice that many make today.
Now, some will ask if God is so benevolent (perfect), why did He put that tree in the garden? The suggestion here is that if God did not want man to do bad (to sin), then He should have taken away that opportunity by not putting the tree in the garden. This very same reasoning is used today: if God does not want bad things to happen then He would just take away every opportunity to do evil.
Since it is October, I want to say to you that God did not create us to be mindless zombies. In the garden, God presented Adam and Eve the freedom of choice. To all of us today, we freely live in God’s creation and we do as we please because God has given us the freedom to do so. Asking why God allows bad things to happen would be the same as asking why He allows good things to happen? God has given to us the freedom to choose!
The onus is on us
As with Adam and Eve, we have been left with instructions by God while we live in this world. Figuratively, we can choose to either eat fruit from the forbidden tree or not eat from the tree. In other words, while we still live, we can choose to live right by being obedient to God’s instructions or we can choose to live disobediently by not keeping His instructions.
The Lord still very much desires to dwell with mankind. In the book of Acts, Paul is recorded saying to the Greeks that the Lord made from one blood every nation of mankind to dwell on the earth, in the hope that we might grope (blindly feel) for Him and find Him (Acts 17:26-27). Will you choose to feel for the Lord today?
This was a choice we can see was laid out to the children of Israel. Through Moses, the Lord said, “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments, that you may live and multiply (Deut. 30:15-20).
God could certainly take away the freedom He has given but should He do so, we would be nothing but mindless zombies gracing this world. If the Lord wanted to dwell with zombies, He would have created zombies! So, again, why does God allow bad things to happen? Again, I tell you, it is not that the Lord allows bad things to happen, but more so that God allows us to live as we desire to live.
So, the onus is on us – mankind – for how we choose to live in this world. So, what this means for us is that if we want the world to be a fairer world – a better place – the onus is on us to make it a better place. If we do not want evil in the world, the onus is on us to remove evil out of the world. You see, God has given to us the instructions and shown us the way to do right, so, the onus is on us to move rather than relying on God to snap His fingers and make the world a “better place”.
The Onus is On Us to Do Good
I feel that the biggest problem that prevents us from making the world a better place is mankind’s refusal to acknowledge and accept our responsibilities in making the world a better place. Our refusal to accept our responsibilities is why we see the world in the shape that it is in today with hatred, ridiculous crimes, and nonsensical wars that lead to a cruel, cruel world.
It is easier for mankind to put the blame on the sovereign and benevolent God rather than accept the fact that we – mankind – are the reason for the bad that is in our world. People ask, why does God allow bad things to happen, yet, we, mankind, refuse to do something about it! Why?
Even more is that some will blame the devil who is another easy target to blame for evil being in the world. Yes, Satan is mankind’s great adversary and is the ruler of darkness, the father of sins, however God has given us the ability to combat him! Even over Satan, we must remember that we choose how we live in this world! The onus is on us to live by God’s word to combat Satan or to give in to his deceit as Adam and Eve did.
Are you putting good or evil in the world today? If you desire to put good in the world, what will we do about the bad that is currently present in the world?
The mindset to do better
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see Paul writing and speaking about the mindset that could make the world a fairer place to those that desire to put good in the world as opposed to putting more evil in the world (Phil. 2:1-4). In this passage of scripture, we will see that Paul was speaking about the mindset of unity — togetherness.
In order to achieve unity, Paul, in our key verse, tells us to not let anything be done through selfish ambition or conceit. If we want our community, society, and the world to be a better place, we should not let anything be done through selfish ambition or conceit! Boy do those words ring loudly in our world today!
You see, selfishness and conceitedness will cause one to have an extraordinarily high opinion of themselves; these are traits that are very dangerous to that person and to all of those around them. The danger is that the overly selfish and conceited person will solely live for themselves while being oblivious to those around them.
As you and I know, selfish ambition and conceit are at the forefront of many of the evil actions that we see today in our world and were at the forefront of evil actions in the past. As we know, selfish ambition and conceit are character traits of “the flesh” – worldly living that leads to wickedness and sin (Gal. 5:19-21). Those who are of the flesh, Paul said to the Galatians, will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
I mentioned earlier that many crimes have come because one regards their own life more than the life they are about to hurt. Wars have been fought and, again, as we see today, are being fought because of selfish ambition.
Just a look at the history of mankind and we will see mistreatment of people due to the conceitedness of some. Suppression and oppression – all things unfair – have come from the souls that are driven by conceitedness and selfishness. We live in a world where those who highly regard themselves can live out and fulfill their dreams while stomping and trampling over the dreams of those they believe are of no regard.
Again, I say to you today, the onus is on us to do better. There is no unity and can be no unity if people continue to choose to live with a selfish and conceited mindset. We, if we desire to do better, to bring good into the world, and to do something about the bad, we must learn how to truly regard each other equally with a mindset of unity! Again, the onus is on us and not just on the Lord who we already know is benevolent and is both faithful and just; it is time for us to be more than fair to one another!
Esteeming one another
Paul, we will see in our key verse for today, says that we should esteem (highly regard) one another in lowliness of mind better than we regard ourselves! Paul encourages us to not just look out for our own self interests but to also look out for the interest of others! Are you capable of looking out for the interests of others? Are you capable of helping others fulfill their dreams?
Being able to help someone fulfill their dreams is something that is just so inconceivable in our world. I say this because we rarely put the interest of others before our own self interests. Yet, as inconceivable as this may seem, I tell you today that mankind has always had a higher calling to live for one another rather than just living for one’s self. Do you desire for the world to be a fairer and better place? Are you capable of living for the higher calling?
To show you what I mean by this higher calling, I want to go back one more time to the Garden of Eden. Again in the garden, while Adam roamed in the garden and tended to it, did the Lord leave Adam to do those things alone? No! God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone and so God gave Adam a helper (Gen. 2:18).
Mankind has the ability to multiply, right? To that point, we have Cain and Abel, the first siblings shown to us in scripture. Cain and Abel were to also be there for the purpose of helping so that all of them could be uplifted. Yet, again, we know how that story ended, don’t we?
I remember something that my dad said to both me and my brother when we were little and had been fighting about God knows what. My dad said to us, ‘You two are brothers! You are to be there for each other and help each other.’ This is a saying that has stuck with me throughout my life and I believe it to be a saying that is true for mankind as well. We, mankind, should be esteeming each other rather than tearing one another down, harming or hurting each other, or doing worse than that.
We, mankind, have a calling to be better than what we have become; the onus is on us to be better. As believers, we know for a certainty that we have an even higher calling that we should be walking worthy of, compared to walking in selfishness and conceitedness (Eph. 4:1-6; 5:1-4). As John wrote in his first epistle, the message that we have heard from the beginning is that we should love one another and not be as Cain, who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother (1 John 3:11-12).
The precedent for how we should walk
Because God is more than fair and His way is benevolent (always good), we are encouraged by Paul to choose to let the mind of Christ be in us if we desire to do good (Phil. 2:5).
This is a thought that traces back to the Mosaic Law and we have even seen it in our recent Sunday School lessons. I want to briefly take a look at Deuteronomy because I want to share with you the precedent when it comes to the mindset of caring for those around you rather than living with a selfish and conceited mindset.
In Deuteronomy, we will see that the Lord instructed the children of Israel that if there was poor among them, within any of the gates in their land, that they should not harden their hearts nor shut up their hands to them, the poor (Deut. 15:7). We see that by these instructions, God was certainly encouraging the children of Israel to do good, right?
Could the selfish and conceited heart do such a thing? In scripture, the rich young ruler conceded that he was unable to care for those that were around him as he could not open his heart or hands to those in need (Luke 18:18-23). The selfish and conceited heart would struggle mightily to do such good. Again, the onus is on us to do better by one another.
Again, to the children of Israel, the Lord instructed them to open their hand wide to the poor and willingly lend them sufficient for their need (Deut. 15:8). God, again, was highly encouraging the children of Israel to do good by being willing to give of themselves. I want you to understand that this giving was not about the dollar bill but about being able to help in any manner that one would be able to help!
I want to also note from this passage of scripture that the Lord said that those who desired to do good should not have been grieved to do so in their hearts (Deut. 15:10); in other words, it should not have been a struggle to do good. To those that did good, God said that He would bless them in all of their works (Deut. 15:10).
This, to me, certainly hearkens to the idea that Paul spoke of when he encouraged the Corinthians, and therefore us as well since we have read his letter, to give as we desire in our hearts. When you give of yourself, Paul said that you should not do so grudgingly or of necessity because God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). In other words, you should genuinely desire to give rather than to be giving of yourself out of some form of religion.
Answering the Higher Calling
In this passage of scripture from Deuteronomy, God advised the children of Israel that the poor will never cease from the land. So, God commanded them to, again, open their hands wide to their brother, to the poor, and to the needy – all of those in need – in the land (Deut. 15:11). Helping all of those around you with hands wide is the higher calling and the way to answer such a calling. This answer is what can and will bring even more good into our world.
You see, there will always be someone in need – someone that we will need to help. The question that we must answer today is this: are you ready to accept the higher call of putting good into the world or will you be one of those that make excuses and say that God should snap His fingers? Will you be one of those that say it is God’s fault or will you answer His call for us to do better?
I tell you again today that the onus is on us to do better. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all (Gal. 6:10).” As we saw in the parable of talents, the Lord gives His gifts to us with the expectation that we will give back what we have received to all of those around us! As the proverb says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He (God) will pay back what he (we) have given (Prov. 19:17).”
I genuinely believe that when we put out good into the world, we will receive good back in return. You see, this is why we ought not to grow weary in doing good because there is a reward of good that will reap; actually, everyone will reap something whether they do good or not. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “he who sows to his flesh of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Gal. 6:7-8).”
Why is there bad in the world? It is because we have allowed it to be here. It is time for mankind to step up and fulfill its calling of doing better! As believers, we should be on the front lines of doing better as we should be moving in faith! Paul encouraged Titus, and again us as well, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age while speaking, exhorting, and rebuking evil with all authority (Tit. 2:12,15).
If we want good to be in the world, the onus is on us to bring good into it! No more standing by! Let us lift a finger and let us stand true to our calling.