By Stefanie Boyles
Staff Writer for the Daily Grace Co.
Have you ever witnessed a kid being stingy, especially regarding good things like a delicious treat? Before I became a mom, this scene was seared into my memory: my nephew had two gummy bear vitamins. When he was asked to share with his younger sister, he bit off the tiniest piece ever and handed it to her. I was amazed at his skills, and I realized after having my own children that sharing good things can be hard for most kids! I also laughed because I identified with this stinginess. For years and years, I was convinced that there was not enough good to go around. This belief caused me to temper my celebrations and personal victories. My insecurities caused me to see others as threatening. I was convinced that if I invited others to share in my good news, I was only growing the risk of having someone else outshine me. This is the toxic mindset that brews in a competitive atmosphere.
It’s easy to relegate this kind of thinking to certain contexts: Asian cultures, Ivy League schools that grade on a curve, jobs on Wallstreet. While it’s true that there may be a noticeable, positive correlation between a sense of competition and shamed-based cultures, the spirit of competition can actually be seen anywhere, even in ministry. Of course, we know that this is not how God’s economy operates—He is never short on goodness and love. The fruit of righteousness is not in limited quantity. So, when your friend grows in Christlikeness, this doesn’t come at the expense of your own growth in godliness. When one ministry blossoms in followers and sales, it doesn’t mean your work is any less doctrinally sound or helpful. When one church doubles in membership, it doesn’t mean the church down the street can’t experience the same by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But when we turn our gaze to ourselves, we begin to operate from a place of scarcity. We latch onto our differences to divide because unity seems risky in light of scarcity. And this is exactly what the enemy wants—division amongst God’s people. The way to combat this is by fixing our gaze on Christ and seeing the riches of His grace that compel us to be generous. When we fix our gaze on Christ, we see the model for us to follow in our day-to-day living, in light of eternity. Philippians 2:1-8 tells us:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In this passage, we see Paul’s encouragement for us to pursue unity in response to Christ’s humility. And the way to be of one mind is to individually remain in a posture of humility. Humility and unity go hand-in-hand, just like pride and division. Biblical humility confronts my tendency to be stingy because the two cannot co-exist. I can’t be both self-centered and Christ-centered. And being Christ-centered means being gospel-centered, and the gospel replaces scarcity with abundance that comes from our union with Christ.
Believers can pursue unity and operate out of a place of abundance because of our “encouragement in Christ” (Philippians 2:1). As recipients of generous love, comfort, affection, forgiveness, grace, and mercy, we respond in gratitude and humility. We strive for what is precious in God’s sight, which is the unity of His people for His glory. We fight against division by individually seeking to fight the sin in our lives that disrupts our fellowship with the Spirit. And by the sanctifying power of the Spirit, we are transformed to be able to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” and “count others more significant.” As the gospel saturates our minds and hearts, we are changed. Our mindsets move from one of scarcity to abundance; our tendency to be stingy is transformed to generosity; our pride is eradicated and replaced with humility; our bent toward division is changed instead to a relentless pursuit of unity.
There was a time when I never thought I’d ever be truly generous. Beyond money, I desperately wanted to be generous with my heart and mind. Isn’t that the only way we are truly known? No amount of positive self-talk was able to uproot my sense of insecurity. It was only when the Lord opened my eyes to the beauty of the gospel and I knew I was fully known and fully loved by God that I was able to genuinely love and be loved, to know and be known, to celebrate others and be celebrated. The gospel knits believers’ hearts and lives together, and on a larger scale, it is unifying churches across denominational lines. Friends, in a world of competition, may the church be known for her display of gospel-empowered unity.