The Sin of Strife and Vainglory
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.
As the lesson text begins, we note that nothing (is to) be done through strife or vainglory. If this is God’s commandment (and it is), through the teaching of the apostle Paul, then, to be obedient to His will, we must know the meaning of strife and vainglory. To avoid doing anything in a manner that is unacceptable to God, we must know the true meaning of the things we are commanded not to do. In the broad sense, to avoid sinning we must be able to understand and identify sin for what it is in the sight of God. In a trite comparison, we must be able to identify all potholes, in the road we are traveling, in order to steer around them. So are the perils of sin that are mentioned in the lesson text – strife and vainglory.
Webster says strife is “vying with another contentiously, as in competition. Strife is a conflict, a struggle, or a quarrel with others. It’s meaning is similar to that of discord.” Strife is a sin. Paul lists it in his letter to the Galatian church along with sixteen other sins or works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Proverbs is a great commentary on the sin of strife. Notice a few passages. A froward (stubborn) man soweth strife (16:28a). An angry man stirreth up strife (29:22a). As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife (26:21). The writer of Proverbs also tells us, not only the cause of strife, but also its cure. Consider these passages.Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease (22:10). Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins (10:12). A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife (15:18).
There is to be no strife among brethren within the body of Christ. Scorn, hatred, and wrath fill the hearts of those that cause strife in Christ’s church. To effectively proclaim the cause of Christ, there must be unity of effort within the church of Christ. Indeed, the body of Christ is made up of members having various capabilities. The apostle Paul confirms this in his letter to the church at Ephesus. He says a complete array of talents and abilities are necessary for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13). Yes, the talents and abilities of its members vary, but its interest and efforts in the cause of Christ are to be both common and constant. Separate goals cannot sustain a unified effort.
Again, referring to Webster we find this definition of vainglory. It is described as “self-pride; a bragging and boastful nature; an ostentatious, showy, and pretentious characteristic. It means to be filled with vanity.” There is no big “I” and little “you” within the church of Christ. All faithful Christians are servants. Elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, song and prayer leaders, or any other member of His church, are all servants to the cause of Christ. Jesus told His disciples, and tells all of His followers today, …whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all (Mark 10:43b-44). The godly effort of all Christians is intended to attract praise, but not to one’s self, or to that of another. All praise, honor, and glory are to be given to our Creator and God – our Heavenly Father.
Realizing this, we can say, as did Paul in his letter to Timothy, and the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves (Tim. 2:24-25a).In order for gentleness, patience, and meekness will abound in all children of God, Paul gives us this admonition: Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another (Gal. 5:26). In a similar way, James tells us not to find joy in boastings (because) all such rejoicing is evil (James 4:16).
The true character of what every Christian should be is summed up in this teaching of the apostle Paul, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Eph. 4:1-6). To which we can only repeat our lesson text. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory!