This is one of the many all-or-nothing verses in Scripture for every Christian.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

“Nothing” means nothing. No excuses that you think are reasonable, no conditions that first need to be met, no exceptions just because it is you. “Do nothing” in the way that this verse is going to explain.

“Selfish ambition” is the root of all quarrels. In relational terms it is the overt “I am better than you” or the more subtle “I am probably better than you”. We find these attitudes excusable, because we certainly don’t think we are always better in every regard, but only in the current topic of contention. That is why the word “nothing” begins this verse. There is no one area in which you as a Christian can start a fight because you think you are better than another.

“conceit” is therefore the perfect description of such selfish contentions. Think about it for a moment, only conceited people start, or perpetuate, conflict. To be conceited is to be really, really, adamant about your own superiority.

“but in humility” is the opposite of the conceited way. Humble people cannot be conned into a quarrel. Even if the humble person does know better, it is hard dragging them into conflict.

“count others more significant than yourselves” is wonderfully practical. The selfish and conceited are quick to think of ways in which to trump the other, but the humble sit down, and start a spreadsheet of ways in which the other is more important.

For the sake of application, here are some mental sentences to take to heart. For marriage relationships, “I don’t agree with what she said, so let me analyse my thoughts to see why I don’t see it her way”, or among children, “He is more important than me, so I can share what I have instead of take what he has”, or among one another “Coming to church to fellowship and love and care is more important than staying in my comfort bubble”, or in spiritual matters “Let me think less of my theological abilities and seek help in areas that I am struggling”, or, for us all “Let me consider all people more important than my agenda, time, or task list.”

More on this in verse 4, with a wonderful model in verse 5 and following, but that will be for next time.