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Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with lowliness of mind consider others as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Earlier, Paul had spoken of those preaching Christ out “envy and strife…”(1:15). Here he comes back to reinforce that there is no place in the church for selfish, conceited, envious strife. If one is doing anything in the church to be seen, they have received the only reward they will ever get. The heart is the area that God looks at; it is the thought behind the action that God will judge with more strictness. Dr. Albert Garner, in his commentary on Philippians, says about this verse, “To do a good thing in a bad spirit is hurtful. The spirit of egotism, conceit, boastfulness, and fleshly pride, so prevalent in intensely earnest, enthusiastic, and zealous people, in its tendency of self-exaltation, is debasing and to be avoided, Gal 5:26; James 3:14.”
The idea of selfishness or empty conceit carries with it the idea of partisanship or vain ambition. Dr. J. Vernon Magee believed that 90% or even 100% of the problems in churches today are not because of doctrinal differences, but because of strife and envy. Do we need to be recognized for the things that we do? Are we to seek out the recognition of man? Perhaps, some have speculated that the problem between Euodias and Syntyche (4:2) may have been just this issue.
Humility – having lowliness of mind. The Greek word (ταπεινοφροσύνη tapeinophrosunē) is a combination of tapeinos (humble) and phren (the mind). Thus, Paul is emphasizing that in the church, for unity, each individual believer must consider everyone more important than they are.
In brotherly love have tender affection for one another; in showing honor to one another, take the lead; – Romans 12:10.
More in-depth Insights
Do nothing from selfishness. The Greek (ἐριθεία eritheia; from ἔριθος erithos [day-laborer]), has the sense of selfish ambition, a strong drive for personal success without moral inhibitions, implying rivalry, with a spirit of contention, hostility, a feeling of strife, for another. Paul commands them to do nothing, not even contemplate anything that might cause strife. Christians have nothing to do with this type of quality or condition. We do not make plans or reach out for anything acquired through selfish ambitions. They do not use physical intimidation, a superior position in life, greater intelligence, some sinister plot because of improper desires and ambitions. Just because one may be more gifted than another does not mean they are to take advantage of them. The Christian is to live by Bible principles and truth and make every effort to glorify God.
Or empty conceit. The Greek noun used here (κενοδοξία kenodoxia) occurs only here in the New Testament, though the Greek adjective (κενόδοξος kenodoxos) is found in Gal. 5:26. It has the sense of vanity, conceit, pride without proper basis and evokes a pointless and empty spectacle of oneself. The person seeks only honor for themselves, crediting themselves alone, attracting attention, bringing praise to oneself, making oneself the most important person. This sort of spirit should never be found in one of God’s people. This does not mean that one cannot use his gifts, talents, or learning to the fullest extent. However, they are not to be used in such a way with the sole purpose of attracting attention to oneself. It also does not mean that we should not be concerned with receiving the respect that is due or rejecting all commendations or praise from others. Yet, receiving these things should not be the sole purpose for what one does.
But with lowliness of mind. The Greek word here (ταπεινοφροσύνη tapeinophrosunē) has the sense of humility, the personality that values or considers oneself correctly, especially in light of one’s sinfulness and human imperfection. (Ac 20:19; Eph 4:2; Php 2:3; Col 2:18, 23; 3:12; 1Pe 5:5) This way of thinking about oneself, mood, inclination, and temperament directly oppose pride, arrogance, self-valuing, striving to be better than others, seeking praise, and flattery. If we possess any of these bad characteristics, humility or lowliness of mind is the only way to overcome them.
Consider others as more important than yourselves. The apostle Peter tells us, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Pet. 5:5) This reflects what true humility and a modest mind are. We make excuses for our bad conduct and tell us about our human imperfections when we make mistakes, yet we are slow to see others in the same light. Of course, we are not to blind ourselves to the shortcomings imperfections of others when they are visible. If we came at things that way, we would not be able to help others if the opportunity presented itself. It means that we do not self-righteously judge others and yet excuse our wrongdoing. We need to look at ourselves truthfully. Regardless of our station in life, we need to see ourselves lower than the lowest among us. We need to be grounded in reality when we look at ourselves. We are sinners, mentally bent toward evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), with a treacherous heart (Jer. 17:9), who have the natural desire to do bad (Rom. 7), that is deserving of eternal destruction. So, let’s reevaluate our self-importance and significance as such.
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 Consider Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6. He talks bout them getting their reward here on earth instead of by the Father.
 Albert Garner, The Prison Epistles (Verse by Verse) (Lakeland, Florida: The Blessed Hope Foundation, 1977). Page 151
 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, V vols. (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1983). Page 300
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996). Page 314