As I write this, it’s been 7½ months since the pandemic prompted our country to throw on the brakes. There’s a vaccine in sight but certainly it’ll be months before it is approved, distributed, and widely administered. So many businesses have closed, many permanently. Entire industries are on the brink. (Certainly, the arts and cultural field, where I have spent nearly the entirety of my career, is reeling.) Millions have seen their incomes contract or vanish. It’s a time of loss.
Paul and Timothy are endeavoring to encourage the Philippians in the midst of equally trying times. They’ve been persecuted for preaching; Paul has been imprisoned and sits in chains. Still he writes with encouragement about God’s faithfulness. But Paul challenges those who read his letter to be God’s hands and feet: “…in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (2:3-4, NIV). We can hear no more important words today than to take care of each other.
Paul doesn’t mince words with those who focus on their own selfish interests: Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things (v. 19, NIV). Their god is their stomach—ouch. Paul and Timothy challenge us to think beyond our own self-absorbed desires—the gluttony of me. In the next chapter, they offer this: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (4:8). In the midst of incredible loss, if we can focus on those things, we have no option but to help each other, even if we must do so masked and from a safe distance.
What can I do this week to uphold someone in my community?
God, give me strength amid so much loss and gratitude for what’s good, pure, and lovely. This one is hard to do. Help me. Thank you. Amen.