Whenever you can find both the Bible and science agreeing on one problem, I think it is worth our contemplation. After reading, at the bottom of this blog post, there will be a 9min portion from a great documentary on stress you’re going to watch titled: Stress, The Portrait of a Killer. See if it doesn’t resonate with what the Biblical suggestions lay out.
At church yesterday one of the pastors read from Philippians 2. When I got home one phrase in verse 5 kept coming back up in my head – “Let this mind be in you….”
Before we find what suggestions the Apostle Paul made for a mindset we should have, I want to point out from what mindset was he pointing us away. Paul mentioned conceptually in verses 3-4, that we should NOT have a mindset that holds onto strife or vainglory.
This only happens when there are at least two people who have expectations for something that they want, respectively…and want it now or first. People who think like this have a zero-sum mentality – they believe that if you get something it takes away from the amount they can get. So strife happens. This mindset tells each individual that they can never help the other because it is taking away from them. You can see an clear example of this mindset on an athletic sports team where players focus their minds on competing for playing time. They focus more about their selfish-ambition than what the team may need.
This is just the end result or goal of someone who is in strife. They fight heavily and persistently to be seen as “something”. It’s the mindset that says “look at me, I’m accomplished” in a conspicuously conceited way. This is a person who has honored themselves way before anyone else can initiate the honoring.
Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
Here are the 3 suggestions Paul highlights for having a healthy social mind found in Philippians 2 verses 6-8 :
1) Don’t try to grasp for your identity
Know who you are. The moment you believe you have to reach for some identity forming thing that will complete your existence, stress is activated in your life and not far behind is strife. Especially for the Christian, you have to believe in who God says you are very deeply. It was a gift for which you have no reason to vie.
2) Determine to be of no reputation
Do you remember being asked as a young child “What do you want to become when you’re grown up?” Of course you do. Well, that idea of causing yourself to become is the meaning I am using when I use the term determine. We know that reputation is a social idea but when it comes to your individual mind, it can do some “work” that can lead again to conceit. Put frankly, don’t buy into your hype. John Wooden makes it succinct,
“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
3) Serve a purpose bigger than your own welfare
The Apostle Paul, when he was writing this book of Philippians, he was sitting in a Roman jail. Yet, with the rest of the time he had before his death, he was encouraging others. In one portion of the book, Paul mentions that he COULD have great confidence in his identity and reputation…and he listed some of his “accomplishments” (you can find this in Philippians 3:4-8). But he takes his own advice for a healthy social mind and concludes that he lives to serve the purpose of spreading the knowledge of Christ and reaching for the heights of Christ’s purpose in his own body. The history of the Apostle Paul speaks for itself.
What do you think about these suggestions? Can they be effective for an individual in today’s world?
Here is the portion of the documentary that mostly followed the work that Dr. Robert Sapolsky did with baboons. Must watch to the end. You’ll be surprised how similar the summary echoes what is written here.