The Philosophy of One’s Life

by Tom Wacaster

The essence of the first chapter of Philippians is captured in the words of 1:21: “For me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.” Take a survey with the following lead in statement: “For me to live is: ______.” Let men fill in the blank. Some might say, “For me to live is wealth!” Perhaps another, “For me to live is my job!” Or, “For me to live is pleasure!” Paul’s philosophy (as well as every faithful child of God) is stated in our passage: “For me to live is Christ.” Let’s add a second question to our survey: “For me to die is: _______.” “For me to die is the great loss!” “For to die is total defeat!” “For me to die is sheer tragedy!” Now listen to Paul: “For me to die is gain!”

Let a man or woman capture the philosophy of Paul as stated in this passage and there is no limit as to how far he will go in living for Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and die is gain!” When Paul wrote those words, he was likely sharing a jail cell with two guards; one on either side with chains binding him to his captors. Circumstances mattered little to Paul. He had a captive audience. And so, he preached! That same apostle would later write, “the word of God is not bound” (2 Tim. 2:9b). From the depths of that prison cell we can almost hear Paul whispering, “For me to live is Christ!” And because of his philosophy, the Gospel was advanced, and even while in his bonds Paul manifested Christ throughout the “whole praetorian guard!” (Phil. 1:13).

Then comes word to Paul that some, motivated by his great courage and determination, were preaching boldly out of love for Jesus and for Paul. His example had been an incentive for them to preach. When they considered him lying in prison, they doubled down on their efforts to preach and remain faithful to Christ in the face of adversity. It must have been a blow to Paul, therefore, to hear of some who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife (1:15); they were motivated by ‘eritheia.’ Now here is an interesting word. Originally it referred to someone who worked for pay. Such a man was in it for what he could get out of it; a “career man” if you will. The word eventually came to refer to someone who worked for public office, not to serve the people, but to benefit himself. It described a man with selfish ambition, out to advance himself, with little concern about those whom he might have to trample upon to achieve his goal. Paul says there were some preaching with the same kind of motive; they were moved only by envy and strife!

Paul was not of that mold in the least. There was not once ounce of jealousy in Paul’s bones. So long as Christ was preached, he was satisfied because God was glorified, and souls were saved. What could enable Paul to have such a mind-set? It goes back to the set of his mind: “For me to live is Christ, and die is gain!” So in spite of Paul’s imprisonment, and in spite of those who preached out of envy and strife, the Gospel continued its march into the palaces of the imperial government at Rome, all because of the philosophy of life that captured the mind of Paul and those faithful dedicated servants who were motivated by the apostle’s wonderful example.

The application is not hard to see. Until men capture the philosophy presented in 1:21, they will never be truly free from party spirit, sectarian animosities, or earthly motives. Jealousy will rule the day and the seeds of self-destruction will run rampant through the citadels of the church of our Lord until all that is left are the shambles of a once mighty phalanx of fighting soldiers in the army of our Lord. May we never give way to despondency, never allow ourselves to think that we could serve God better if our circumstances were better than they are, and always do our best while we cling to the only philosophy of life that can provide genuine peace and joy in this life, and eternal blessings in the life to come.

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