The Unselfish Life—Part 1
From the Roadmap series
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As Christians, giving and unselfishness should be cornerstones in our lives. It’s not only according to God’s Word to give to others, but it’s also “good business” and deeply satisfying. How much we give to others is a personal choice, but our decisions in this regard will have a large bearing on our success and the testimony we are of the Lord’s love.
There are many ways we each can exercise unselfishness. We can share encouraging words, our time, our services, and our finances. We can help those who are less fortunate, and we can support and participate in Christian outreach.
Giving is a life principle; it’s the concept of being like Jesus, who cared for others, healed the sick, and took time both with those of influence and the poor. Jesus loved everyone. Jesus gave. In fact, He gave to such a degree that eventually He made the ultimate sacrifice and gave His life so that we could be saved.
Every day we have the opportunity to be more like Jesus and to give unselfishly to others. We can give our time to others; we can take time out of our busy schedules to focus our attention on people as individuals. We can make them feel important by including them in our lives, giving them our attention, sharing God’s love—even if only for a moment.
We should never underestimate the power of attention given to the individual. Each of us needs to be reminded from time to time that we are unique individuals, that we matter and we are loved.
Victor Hugo said, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that one is loved; loved for oneself, or better yet, loved despite oneself.”
In the following story we see the value of love in the form of personal attention:
A young sociology professor sent his class out to a Baltimore slum to interview 200 boys and predict their chances for the future. The students, shocked by slum conditions, predicted that about 90 percent of the boys they interviewed would someday serve time in prison.
Twenty-five years later, the same professor assigned another class to find out how the predictions had turned out. Of 190 of the original boys located, only four had ever been to jail.
Why had the prediction been so wrong? More than 100 of the men remembered one high school teacher, a Miss O’Rourke, as having been an inspiration in their lives. After a long search, Shelia O’Rourke, more than 70 years old, was found. But when asked to explain her influence over her former students, she was puzzled. “All I can say,” she finally decided, “is that I loved every one of them.”—John Kord Lagemann
As Christians we are privileged because we can give others things of great value—comfort, prayer, encouragement, and the truth of God’s Word. We have found the secret to everlasting joy in Jesus, and we have the peace of mind of knowing that when we die, we’re going to spend eternity with the one we love the most in all the world, all the universe, Jesus.
No matter what difficulties or hardships we’re facing, we can always give of our time, service, and love to others. And as we do, the Lord will give back to us, including the encouragement and sense of fulfillment that we long for.
Here is an example of this principle, as told by Billy Graham:
To a woman who wrote me of the boredom that came into her life when her children were grown and gone from home, I replied: “In the past, your immediate family needed most of your time and strength. Now you can extend the range of your love. There are children in your neighborhood who need understanding and friendship. There are aged people near you who are starved for companionship, blind people who cannot even enjoy the television you find so boring. Why not get out and find the joy of helping others?”
Weeks later, she wrote again: “I tried your prescription. It works! I have walked from night into day!”—Rev. Billy Graham
I’m sure we’ve all had those times when we didn’t think we could afford to give of our time; we were too busy. Or of our money; we were too broke. Or even of our care and concern; we felt tapped out emotionally and spiritually. We wanted someone else to pick up the slack, and we thought we’d make up the difference later, after things settled down and we were in a better position to give.
But really, the Lord’s not always going to let us off the hook that easily. He walked way out of His way to love and encourage one woman at a well.1 He was tired and spent, and yet “he healed them all.”2 He made the ultimate sacrifice in giving His life for us, so how can we not give to those who need our love, help, service, or encouragement?
Consider this situation:
Once, when Mr. LaGuardia, the famous ex-mayor of New York, was presiding at a police court, they brought a trembling old man before him charged with stealing a loaf of bread. He said his family was starving. “Well, I’ve got to punish you,” said Mr. LaGuardia. “The law makes no exception, and I can do nothing but sentence you to a fine of 10 dollars.” Then he added, after reaching into his pocket, “and here’s the ten dollars to pay your fine. And now I remit the fine.” Then, tossing the 10-dollar bill into his famous outsize hat, he said, “Furthermore, I’m going to fine everybody in this courtroom fifty cents, for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines, and give them to this defendant.”
The hat was passed, and an incredulous old man, with a light of heaven in his eyes, left the courtroom with $47.50.—Author unknown
Every Christian is presented throughout life with many opportunities to bless others. And when we do so, the amazing thing is that the Lord never fails to give back. You can’t outgive God. The Bible says, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”3
Here is an example of this principle:
Eight years ago, Susan received a letter from an old friend, Helen. Helen’s niece was a severe anorexic; she was going to die unless she received intensive treatment in an expensive clinic thousands of miles from their home. The program cost, however, was way beyond the family’s budget, given that the father was unemployed and had health problems of his own. So the family sent out a letter to family members and other friends, requesting money.
Susan was both moved and a little surprised, because people, even relatives, rarely ask for help so overtly. With three kids of their own, it was hard for Susan and her husband to decide how much to give. “We ended up sending $500—which seemed like too little and, simultaneously, way too much for us,” says Susan.
But others responded generously as well. The little girl was admitted into a program for treatment and survived. “Without the letter they sent, she would not have made it,” says Susan.
Three years later, Susan’s husband lost his job. He also suffered severe health problems. His unemployment period stretched out well over a year, and Susan’s family was forced to live on savings that quickly disappeared. Even though Susan was working, they were getting very frightened about their financial situation.
Then one day a card arrived in the mail from a woman that Susan didn’t know. She was Helen’s mother, the anorexic girl’s grandmother. She wrote that she had heard that Susan and her husband were going through a “rough patch,” and that she wanted to help out. She went on to write that she knew what it was like to have financial difficulties.
Susan said, “This amazing woman who had raised three children on her own working in low-paying service jobs sent us a check for $2,000.”
When you truly understand the full power of nice, you realize that by treating others with kindness, respect, and generosity, your actions get paid back in one way or another—with interest.—Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval4
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.—Luke 6:385
Giving love to another person brings its own satisfaction. Not only do you feel the fulfillment of brightening someone else’s day and lightening someone else’s load, but that’s when the law of God’s rewards comes into play, and the often quoted adage, “If you give, you will receive.”
If you’ve been looking for someone to make you happy, maybe you need to look for someone to make happy, and then happiness will find you! For whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. It’s just one of God’s rules and laws of the spirit world, which are just as definite and certain as the scientific laws of physics, such as gravity. The laws of the spirit, however, never fail! They always work—either for you or against you, according to how you obey them, and whether or not you obey them.
If you want to be happy and make others happy, seek the satisfaction of the spirit in God! For the fashion of this world passes away and the lust thereof, but he [and the love] that do the will of God abide forever. Long live love! God is love!—Adapted from the writings of David Brandt Berg
Roadmap was a video series created by TFI for young adults. Originally published in 2010. Adapted and republished on Anchor January 2018. Read by Simon Peterson.
1 John 4.
2 Matthew 12:15.
3 2 Corinthians 9:6 NKJV.
4 The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness (Doubleday, 2006).