Word of the Week: Selfless

Martin and Diedre Bobgan in their book, How To Counsel From Scripture, tell of a fascinating study dealing with the principle of the Golden Rule. It was conducted by Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research.

“The happiest people,” Rimland concluded “are those who help others.”

“Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare–an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.”

In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those ‘whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness…are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy” Rimland concluded: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”

Our word of the week is “selfless.”

Unfortunately, the opposite of selfless is too often true in our modern culture. Ironically, folks think that focusing on fulfilling your own desires, needs and wants will produce happiness.

The Bible teaches us not to be motivated by “selfish ambition or conceit.” Rather we should “look out not only for (our) own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

Jesus taught that the road to greatness is through selfless service. In fact, He set the example and said that He “came not to be served, but to serve” (Matt 20:25-28).

Selflessness not only involves service but sacrifice. It’s more than just a token donation, or our weekly contribution, or regular volunteer work. To sacrifice is to give up something of value It goes above and beyond our normal everyday activities of good works. Even if it’s not required, the selfless person is willing to truly sacrifice for the greater good.

Of course, this spirit of selfless sacrifice is rooted in our commitment to Christ. Our spiritual dedication. And a selfless, lifelong devotion to Him. Paul put it this way, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1).

To be selfless combines the spiritual characteristics of humility. Meekness. Compassion. Benevolence. Empathy. Sympathy. Gentleness. Goodness. And generosity.

Selflessness is a true nobility of spirit that issues itself in genuine altruistic acts of kindness toward our fellow man. It is practicing the second great command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:38).

The Apostle reminds us that spiritual love is selfless. In the great love chapter, He writes, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving” (1 Cor 13:4).

Lest we get the wrong idea, selflessness is not self-demeaning. It is not debasing, degrading, or disparaging self. It is not putting one’s self down. Nor is it self-depreciating, walking around with its shoulders hunched over, bad-mouthing itself.

To paraphrase a familiar quote, “Selflessness is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.”

In a world that is trying to find self, fulfill self and satisfy self, the words of Jesus ring in sharp contrast and constantly challenge us to deeper devotion and genuine generosity.

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 10:39).

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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