“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
Modern counseling and psychology focus a lot of attention on obsessive behaviors—whether it’s an obsession with food, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, drugs, or even work. But perhaps one of the most overlooked addictions is our obsession with personal significance. Think about the amount of time and energy you spend in maintaining, advancing, expanding, and protecting your sense of significance. You know, making yourself look good, staying on top of the heap, protecting your ego, and living to be more successful than the next guy.
And while it seems like everyone is signed up for this rat race, we need to face up to the reality that the search for significance is a treacherous pursuit personally.
Count the costs. Significance is often gained at the expense of our character as we are willing to lie and cut ethical corners to be viewed well by others. It makes us defensive when someone seeks to improve us through criticism. The pursuit embitters our hearts against God over disappointing and unchangeable personal issues like our size, shape, or color. Pursuing our own significance makes us vulnerable to a host of verbal sins, such as gossip, slander, boasting, lying, and immoral chatter. It’s why we are quick to violate basic principles of stewardship by burdening ourselves with debt in order to accumulate things that supposedly enhance our significance socially and materially. The warning label on being obsessed with your own significance is long and serious.
And, I need to add, being driven to protect and advance our sense of significance renders us unable to serve others unless there is an advantage to be gained; unable to sacrifice for a cause that is not our own and unwilling to suffer for that cause if necessary; unable to surrender to any agenda that impedes the progress of our personal persona. In short, it cripples our ability to love God more than ourselves and to live to bring glory to God since, when we are compelled to glorify ourselves, we are unable to exalt His worthy significance.
So let’s see what we can do about this. At the start of his letter to the Colossians, Paul notes that Jesus is the only truly significant Person: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . . . He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:15-18). Yet, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, Jesus did not live to hold on to these things but rather poured himself out for our benefit by humbling himself in obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:6-7).
Don’t miss the point! Jesus—who had every right to celebrate and advance His own significance—chose to serve, surrender, suffer, and sacrifice in order to bring glory to His Father and to rescue us from the grip of hell. And if you have accepted this gift of surrender on His part, you are now a child of God. You already are significant! God is your Father. Significance is no longer a search but a secured reality. And once you are significant in Him, you are free to refocus your obsession to living to glorify His significance and not your own.
So, let the attitude of Christ be in you. It’s a significant pursuit worthy of your obsession!
- Read Philippians 2:1-11. How can you transition from verses Philippians 2:3-4 to live with the attitude of Christ? Can you believe that, as it says in 1 Peter 5:6, when you humble yourself to Him, He will exalt you “in due time”?
- Make a list of things that make you feel significant. Is there anything on that list that competes with making Jesus significant through your life?
- Think through why you want to feel significant. Do you really think that elevating yourself is more worthy than living to elevate Him?
- What are some warning signs that might indicate whether or not you are obsessed with your own significance? If you’re not sure, ask a trusted friend to help you evaluate this area of your life.