Lessons from Long Ago
Are teachings from the Bible still relevant today?
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider whether teachings from the Bible are still relevant in today’s world.
Preparation and materials
- Optional: you may wish to display the following words from the Bible, in which case you will also need the means to do so: ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’ (Philippians 2.3-4)
- Optional: show the quotation from Philippians 2.3-4.
Read out the words: ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’
Explain that these words were written by a man called Paul nearly 2,000 years ago. However, they still have great relevance today.
- Let’s think about the phrase ‘selfish ambition’ in that quotation. It isn’t saying that ambition is wrong; in fact, it is right to be ambitious and have goals, aims and dreams that we want to achieve. However, if our ambitions stem from selfishness, so that we put ourselves before everyone else and tread on others to get what we want, that’s not right.
Let’s say, for example, that we really want the main part in the school play and we know that our friend wants it too. We have a sneaking suspicion that they might be better than us, so we tell them the wrong dates for the audition. They miss out and we get the part.
You may wish to ask the students to discuss this scenario. Would it be right to do this? What would the students do?
- In the Bible passage, Paul also talks about conceit. This word isn’t used much today, but we hear synonyms for it, such as egotistical, self-centred and self-serving. It means that we think of ourselves as better than other people.
- Next, Paul says, ‘In humility, regard others as better than yourselves.’ This isn’t saying that everyone is better than us; rather, it means that sometimes, we should take a back seat and allow someone else to shine.
So, returning to the school play, we should be truthful about the audition dates and let the best person get the part. It is about humility, about being humble and accepting that others have talents that we may not have and our time to shine will come, just not necessarily at that moment.
- By appreciating the brilliance of others, we serve their interests, setting aside our selfishness. It’s a matter of seeing that what we want for ourselves might not necessarily be what’s best for the greater good, for other people or in the long term.
Time for reflection
How would it be if today, we tried putting someone else first? It might involve actions as simple as holding the door open for someone, taking the time to listen to a friend who always listens to us or helping out at home rather than leaving everything for someone else to do.
Let’s also think about how we can try to see our place in the grand scheme of things, taking everyone’s talents and needs into account rather than putting ourselves first.
‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’
The words may have been written nearly 2,000 years ago, but the teaching is still important today!
Thank you that you have made each of us different.
Thank you that we each have different skills and talents.
Please help us always to be willing to see the good in others.
Please help us not to be jealous of each other’s abilities,
But to remember that variety makes the world a better place.
‘The UK Blessing’, sung by churches all over the UK, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtll3mNj5U (6.46 minutes long)