“I have no one like him,” Paul writes about Timothy (Philippians 2:20). Immediately I’m curious. What set Timothy apart? Left to guess, I’d probably imagine that he was unusually gifted or had personal charisma.
But that’s not what set Timothy apart. “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:20-21).
I dare you to dig through leadership books for this trait. You’ll find that other qualities get mentioned first. Most of our approaches to life and Christian leadership focus on attaining our goals, not forgetting our goals to serve others selflessly.
Timothy was unique because he didn’t seek his own interests, but was genuinely concerned for the welfare of others and for Jesus.
What’s true of Timothy is what should be true for all of us. This isn’t an elite level of Christianity. This, according to Paul, is what it means to follow Jesus.
The Selfish Believer
It’s easy to drift toward seeking our own interests. We may begin with a genuine desire to serve others and the Lord, but our own self-interest can take over and corrupt us.
According to Paul, self-interest characterized a lot of people in the church. We know what this looks like: wondering what’s in it for us; looking for ways to benefit from others. What set Timothy apart is that he wasn’t like that.
The fact that Paul centers Timothy out, and indicts others in the church at Rome, stands as a warning to all of us: we can’t afford to drift toward being consumed with our own interests. Sin turns us inward, robbing us of the privilege of serving Christ and others. Given Paul’s comments, it’s safe to assume it will happen to all of us unless we take deliberate action to resist.
The Selfless Believer
Focusing on the interest of others will set you apart. It will cost you. You will be a rare kind of Christian. You will be like Jesus (Philippians 2:4-11).
I know people like this. They seem genuinely excited to see you. They make you, not them, the center of conversation. They show up looking for ways to serve. They have no problem being with people who offer them nothing in return. When you are with them, you feel elevated.
When I meet someone like this, I sometimes see if I can out serve them. I usually walk away beaten by them. No matter how much I set out to bless them, they end up blessing me more. It’s the holiest of contests, seeing who can outdo the other in showing honor (Romans 12:10).
A selfless person is rare. No wonder Paul said, “I have no one like him.” We may not be able to find many people like this, but we can pray that God helps us become this kind of person.
Bob Goff gets it right in his book Dream Big: “Take a genuine interest in the people around you. Make it what you’re known for. Make it your defining characteristic. Make it your anthem.”