Nothing Works Better

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3, nasb).

Are you having a tough day today? Been a little down in the dumps lately?

There’s a way to fix that—but not by “working on it.” The way to increase your joy again starts by doing “nothing from selfishness.”

If you think of sin as a big oak tree, with all kinds of various iniquities and moral offenses written on every leaf, the one sin that would be written on the trunk, around the base, and throughout the entire root system would be selfishness. Selfishness leads to every sin, and every sin invariably leads to discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment, and eventually to misery. Never to joy.

The apostle Paul, however, in Philippians 2, described the path that can take you back to joy. And every single step of it is paved, not with selfishness, but with selflessness. Every step. Because if you truly want to capture the joy that’s been so deftly escaping you lately, you must “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” Nothing. Nothing from “rivalry,” as one translation says (hcsb), or from “selfish ambition,” as another puts it (esv). Nothing.

This includes anything you do, whether intentionally or reflexively, to promote yourself and impress other people in hopes of getting them to see how great you are, how cool you seem, or how many good ideas you come up with. “Do nothing” to make sure your contributions at work or church or even just around the house are sufficiently admired and appreciated. “Nothing” to seek acknowledgement for yourself out of fear your talents will never be noticed if you don’t somehow point them out to people. “Nothing” to manufacture your own acceptance, promotion, popularity, affirmation, or happiness.

God’s Word would teach us that this grasping after self-promotion leads only to misery.

But you can break out of this type of misery—you can choose to live in joy—right now, today, by doing “nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” Choose instead to live in “humility of mind” by regarding other people as “more important than yourselves.”

Humility is a joy maker. It’s not some kind of self-deprecation, where you consider yourself of no value, as though you don’t even matter. Of course you matter. You matter deeply to God, and you’ve been created by Him with great worth. But humility is found in living with no self-focus at all, viewing others and their needs as more significant than yours.

So instead of seeing people as a frustrating waste of your time, consider their need for being heard right now to be of more importance than what you’d otherwise be doing. Instead of making demands and asserting your rights, consider that what others need for doing their job or improving their skills takes precedence right now over whatever you were hoping to do for yourself. “Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 esv).

You can’t be forced to live this way. You have to choose it, and most people don’t. So you and they can just keep sitting there under that oak tree, shaking your branches and trying to stand apart from the rest and from each other. But you will never live with joy if you continue to stay rooted and planted in selfishness.

Choose self, and choose misery.

But choose humility—choose others—and expect the leaves to start falling off that tree of sin and discouragement.


  • What are some of the significant differences this approach might create in your daily life?
  • Who’s the first person whose interests you can start looking to rather than your own?

Lord, thank You for modeling through Your Son Jesus what it means to give of ourselves for the needs of others. In His greatness, Christ humbled Himself for me. Help me, then, to see the coming day as an opportunity for extending at least a taste of Christlike love and service to those around me. Help me embrace the real way to joy through giving myself, spending myself, making myself nothing, so that You might be everything in and through me. In Jesus’ name, amen.