Unselfishness ... 2
A selfish mindset forgets that the blessings of God are to be shared, and that others should be helped. An unselfish lifestyle avoids the delusion that we don’t need to thank or give back to God.
Needing God is a lesson that is very easy to learn when one is faced with catastrophic circumstances or overwhelming odds, but it is a much tougher sell when things are going well. Somehow we forget that a fruitful, low stress existence is cause for reflective individuals to thank their Maker for such blessings. Instead, those who are self-centered get lulled into the dangerous belief that good fortune is a result of their own efforts alone; and that they are simply reaping what they deserve apart from any involvement from God’s grace.
Jesus shows us the danger of the entrapment of materialism and selfishness when He converses with a very wealthy man who claims to want to know how to gain eternal life. The man tells Jesus what he has accomplished . . . that he has followed all the commandments since he was a child. But knowing the man’s heart, Jesus cuts right to the issue when he says: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22 NIV) The same story is repeated in Matthew. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21 NIV) Jesus showed the man the condition of his heart, and the remedy, how to be perfect by becoming unselfish. Being perfect is not the same as being righteous. If the man kept the law as he said he had, then the man was righteous under that covenant, which may have included tithing; yet being selfless is something that runs deeper with God than upholding the laws of religion. In the new covenant, the letter of the law is superseded by its intent. (Therefore, when discussing the state of our heart and the condition of our character, unselfishness and generosity is meant to be viewed in a personal charitable sense, an individual's desire to give; not as a socio-political construct or coercion of everyone for the sake of the collective, such as proposed in "The Great Reset of Capitalism".)
The next verse tells us that the man becomes very sad. Did he become sad because he realized he was personally lacking empathy and generosity, or that his understanding of priorities had been way off course and needed changing? Like most of us, was he affected by his own unwillingness to abandon what he perceived as the fruit of his efforts? Was the grip of materialism controlling him? Was it the sin of greed that he still harbored in his heart? Greed will impact a person to consider himself and his needs over and above others, and above God’s will for sharing wealth with the needy.
The significance that our possessions represent to us is also a product of our culture. And culture is something that changes based on many influences. A secular culture is influenced by secular values. A Christian culture is influenced by Christian values. The significance that our possessions represent to us will be different in a secular culture, a socialist culture and a Christian culture. Which do we really prefer to belong to?
Jesus wouldn’t ask anyone to do what He Himself would not do. To become unselfish requires us to eradicate the materialistic desires that cause us to cling to our possessions, or that wants to surround ourselves with possessions. So let’s ask ourselves a tough Jesus-type of question, Would we be able to give away all our possessions to the poor in order to “crucify” our selfishness? Is unselfishness more important to us than materialism? And more generally, are we being adulterous if we choose to live by an unwise mix of secular, Christian or alternative values?
Since we believe Jesus was perfect and lived a perfect life, we can assume He was often willing to give His possessions, His time, His energy to those who needed them. Being poor is not necessarily a sign of imperfection, nor is being rich, however being selfish and greedy is. Even though Christ was poor, He was still able to give His incredible gift of love. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV) Our lives were made rich through the death of Christ and by receiving His promise to give everlasting life. This is something we can never achieve for ourselves, or provide to anyone else – only God can. The extent that we see ourselves indebted to God, will influence how much we "buy-in" to God's Kingdom, and all it represents.
We should not be selfish with our time or resources, but give it unselfishly to others which is God’s will, lest we be labelled hypocrite for only taking from God, and not giving. If we hope to become like Him, we must imitate Him by reciprocating His freely given generosity. Our generosity is born from thanksgiving, trust, admiration and respect; and developed through unselfishly offering favor and help to others. Those who serve God can only do so in gratitude for the unearned favor they have received. They appreciate the enormous benefit of what Jesus has done in dying for all sin, and restoring us to the Father who makes everything else possible. God's ability to provide, sustain, and to meet our future needs is unlimited. Therefore to be grateful and unselfish also requires us to trust God to supply our needs in ways that we can only hope for. The unselfish will avoid putting emphasis on things of their own doing as prideful, for they are quick to realize that none of their own efforts will ever replace or surpass God’s many acts of love for them.
Ultimately, we have very limited control over our lives. Our location impacts us, our family and friends impact us, our culture impacts us, world events impact us, leaders around us impact us, even a random incident can impact us. This is why we are always in need of God to intervene in our best interests, otherwise we can easily be swept away by it all. Death will certainly impact us, but not if we are anchored to God's promises and His will, for He is faithful and our hope in Him will not be in vain.