19. Philotimo / Φιλότιμο / (fi-LO-tee-mo)
Self–surrender is not a popular concept.
Whether out in the jungle, or in the crevices of human nature
Having a ruthless & combative spirit can be seen as a positive attribute by many, but today’s word, philotimo, flies in the face of such thinking.
It’s a Greek term, and comes from the roots filos– or “friend” and timi– or “honor”. Together, they combine to imply the sense of pride one can have in themselves, or their community.
It literally translates to love of honor, and was used by the Apostle Paul (who happened to be fluent in Greek) three times in his letters to the churches popping up all over Eurasia.
It closely parallels another idea found in the English concept, ambition.
Though not the kind which most of us are used to. his idea was to embody a different type, an ambition marked by duty to humanity, and not to self.
An ambition that competes for a prize of eternal value.
When imploring the church in Corinth to remain steadfast in the mission, Paul said;
“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”2 Corinthians 5:9 (KJV)
The word labor here is a translation of philotimo, and Paul’s use of it references a type of work that doesn’t draw attention to self, but directs it outward.
Or rather, upward.
Philotimo is a concept that abstains from self-praise, but don’t be fooled, the goal is still to receive a reward; just not one that’s temporary, like money.
Instead, for something that lasts, like one’s legacy.
Most people get caught up in finite games.
The thing is, you are infinite.
Many linguists agree that philotimo is a tough idea to pin down.
Another concept that might be an appropriate substitute is “to build an inheritance”.
Or perhaps even more potent, “to have an Eternal Life”
Our current ideas surrounding work are usually rooted in competition and scarcity, this is inherently limiting. It keeps us in a “go go go” culture. Always busy and never satisfied.
When your job title encapsulates your identity, there isn’t much room for personal legacy outside of career goals.
But what if… We served humbly instead?
Not for money, but for people. No press, no cameras.. just a broom, and some faith.
Kind of like that Jesus fella.