Whenever we encounter a particularly self-centered person we may comment that he is only looking out for #1. By this we mean that his primary focus is only on his own needs and desires. In some cases, this kind of self-interest may be limited to a specific circumstance. For example, a person might point a finger of accusation at another to deflect suspicion from himself, even if he was involved in the questionable activity. In such a case, the self-centered person cares more about his own welfare than about what is right or true. In its most extreme manifestation, this attitude may pervade every aspect of a person’s life. This kind of person cares only about his own welfare, no matter what the situation may be.
This “me-first” attitude has always been present in society, going back perhaps as far as Cain and Abel. It has not, however, been as widespread as it appears to be today. In the last fifty years people have become far more self-centered and self-absorbed than in any previous generation. While there are still many in society who genuinely care about the needs of others, the majority seem to be concerned only about themselves and their own welfare.
This attitude is so pervasive that it has even crept into the church. Many might balk at this conclusion, but it is undoubtedly true. To be certain, this self-centeredness is generally expressed in subtle ways, but it is there nonetheless. In previous generations, a visitor could expect to be warmly greeted when he arrived at the assembly, and to receive an invitation to join a family for a meal afterward. Today, most of us are so focused on our personal plans that we do not even think about extending such hospitality. We’re too busy looking out for #1 to even think about anyone else’s needs, much less to act on them. We are so self-absorbed that we often fail to extend such courtesies even to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is not how it was in the early church, and it certainly is not what the Lord expects of us. Shortly after the church was established, Luke records that believers cared for one another by sharing with anyone who might have need (Acts 2:44-45). Those who had no needs were cognizant of those who did and gave of themselves to help meet those needs. Their generosity and mutual care for one another puts us to shame today.
When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he commanded them to look out for one another. In Phil. 2:3-4 he said, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In other words, as disciples of Christ we should be looking out for #2.
Doing so does not mean that we must neglect our own needs. Rather, it underscores the fact that we are not loners on the road to eternal life. We are part of a family, the family of God, and we share responsibility for each other’s welfare on this journey. The beauty of God’s plan is that if each of His children is looking out for #2, then no one’s needs will ever be neglected.
The Lord Himself is our example. In Phil. 2:5-11 Paul reminded the Philippians that Christ put their welfare above His own by going to the cross to redeem them from sin. For this reason, God has exalted His name above all others. In light of this truth, we should spend more time looking out for #2. Doing so will give us a better perspective of the journey to eternal life, and it will please and honor the Lord who died for us.