Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, July 2002

Philippians 2:3,4 - Your Rights, My Rights, Whose Rights
By S K Sio, Civil Servant & Servant of God

Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:4 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I learnt a lesson from my neighbours recently, a humbling lesson. I had an "argument" with some neighbours. Oh, we didn't come to blows, but we did cross words.

Twice a week, a group of ladies have been gathering in the mini-amphitheatre just below my flat, to do therapeutic exercises in the evening. The broadcast of "satu, dua, tiga .... tujo,...." in disco beat and "opera-style" instruction of each movement from their tape player bothered me.

I decided to ask the group of ladies to tone down the volume of their tape player. The instructor was very unhappy when I made my request. One old lady in the group asked: "why was I depriving 'le-ling' (Chinese for old people) of their activity?" Then, she suggested, why don't I move to private housing?

My first thought as soon as I returned to my flat was this - I should have prayed first! I should be at peace with my neighbours. But, then, I have the right to peace and quietness in the night after a long day of hard work and stress. Next thought - I have been a bad "testimony" in the first place, in taking that first step to confront my neighbours. But, then, the noise might get worse if I didn't do anything.

And so I dueled with myself in my mind.

The next morning, our gracious Lord and Father spoke to me through His Word. The reading for my QT was Rom 15:1-13. Verses 2 and 3 read:

"Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself ..."

I realised what was the lesson that He was teaching me through the incident the night before. I should not please myself, I should please my neighbours. I should not insist on my rights to peace and quiet, I should remember my neighbours have their rights to recreation and exercise.

As I pondered, I thought about the angry older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The older brother was angry as well over his rights - his rights to his father's inheritance, his father's love. He was angry that his father killed the fattened calf for his brother who squandered his share of the inheritance - wasn't he entitled to kill a calf for his friends as well? (verse 29) And might he be worried and fearful that his brother, whom the father obviously doted on, might take his other share of inheritance as well? Hence the sarcastic retort: "this thy son was come, which devoured thy living with harlots"? (verse 30)

And so, we should learn to give up our rights, to look after the interests of others, to serve rather than be served, to live in peace with one another.

1. How far would you go to stand up for your rights?
2. How do you strike a balance between your rights and the rights of others?
3. According to Phil 2:3, what 2 instructions are we to heed if we were to look to the interests of others besides our own.
4. How devastating can selfish ambition and vain conceit be within the kingdom of God and what are tell tale signs of conceited people?

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