“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
Our culture today is very self-centered. We’re told, with very few exceptions, to take care of ourselves. Do what makes you happy. Believe whatever you want to believe. Follow your truth, whatever it may be. These are all things that have become doctrine in our society, and unfortunately even for some Christians.
Of course, none of these things is necessarily bad as long as one’s heart is in line with the will of God, in which case doing what makes you happy and believing what you want to believe and following your truth are all good and righteous things to do. But unfortunately that’s not often the case. Instead, we chase money, power, and vanity. We worship beauty and riches and fame. And we’re told it’s all good because it’s what we want. And after all, we should do whatever we want.
This is problematic on several levels, but we’ll focus on one today. In this verse, Paul says there is someone we should be seeking to please, but it isn’t ourselves. It’s our neighbor. No, not specifically your next door neighbor, but everyone you may interact with at any given time – anyone that you’re sharing this life and this world with. Paul doesn’t talk about treating yourself or doing what makes you feel good, he talks about building up our neighbors.
What if that’s the mindset our world had? How much better of a place would it be? Instead of everyone looking after themselves and fighting over who gets what and when and how much, it would be all about taking care of each other. Instead of worrying how much I have, I’d be worrying about making sure everyone had enough.
That’s what Christians are called to live like. Not thinking about ourselves first, but always of our neighbor. Not just to give them pleasure, but to please them for their good. To build them up. That is our calling. In everything you do today, ask yourself: is this building up or tearing down? Is this for my own benefit, or for someone else? Become aware of how much time and energy you spend on yourself, and make an effort to redirect it to building up your neighbor.
I think it’s safe to say we all think about ourselves too much. Help us not to worship and serve ourselves, but to worship and serve you by building up others.
In Jesus’ Name,