“You reap what you sow!”
Maybe, you have heard this saying before. Parents, teachers, and others use it a lot. It comes from this passage written by the apostle Paul: “A man reaps what he sows”—and Paul himself drew it from other ancient wisdom (see Proverbs 22:8; Hosea 10:12-13). Life’s circumstances too often prove the warning true.
Sow vast fields of Selfishness – Reap even greater harvests of Selfishness.
Matthew 9:35-38 Message:
35-38 Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
Jesus sowed seeds of selflessness in his enormously compassionate response to the complex multitudinous needs of the people he had encountered throughout his circuit in the marketplaces and meeting places in these towns and villages.
He automatically gave to the people everything he had – he held nothing back from them in teaching them, reporting kingdom news to them, healing them of “their diseased bodies, healing them of their broken, bruised and hurt lives. So utterly confused and aimless they were, like sheep without their Shepherd.”
Next, Jesus sets up His disciples to gauge their responses to what they have just witnessed as Jesus, without even thinking twice about it, gave them everything.
“What a huge harvest!” He said to His disciples (and anyone else within hearing distance of Jesus’ words) “How few workers!” “On your knees! Pray for more harvest hands!” Can you just guess right here that Jesus was testing the reality of the quality of each disciple’s (and ours today) hearts and souls for service?
Can you see the Word of God sowing the seeds of a conflict here within these men? The of conflict within their hearts, souls and spirits of choosing between choosing between living almost exclusively for themselves with occasional circuits, and forays into the towns, villages, neighborhoods where help was desperately needed? Sowing the seeds of the Gospel wherever the ground was.
Jesus gave quite literally everything he had. The Disciples could only give of their limited selves, reluctantly of their meager and limited resources of what they believed they possessed – limited time, and time limited commitments.
Our great hope, Paul writes in Colossians, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Remember, Jesus was called Immanuel (“God with us”—see Isaiah 7:14; and Matthew 1:23). And eventually the Holy Spirit came to live in the hearts of all believers (Acts 2). This means God is sewing, recreating his image within us.
This calls for our cooperation. As the farmer must sow seeds, pull weeds, and fertilize and water his plantings to reap a harvest, so we must cooperate with the Spirit to grow the good fruit of Christlike living. Sowing to please the Spirit means our work is done out of love for God and our neighbors (Mark 12:30-31), love for one another (John 13:34-35), and even love for our enemies (Luke 6:35).
The Holy Spirit’s guarding, guiding, inspiring, sowing, sewing and weaving and working within us bears fruit that pleases God. We just need to learn how to sow and tend his crops. Spiritual self discipline practiced every day will grow a great harvest of good in us that will please our Lord. Are you ready to sow with God?
Galatians 6:7-8The Message
7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God! —harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians: Our Selfishness destroys relationships!
It is the number one cause of conflict, arguments, divorce, and even war.
James 4:1 -3 Message says,
4 1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.
2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.
Every trouble starts because …..
“we are spoiled children of our self-centeredness.”
“We want what we want, when we want it, we want it all exactly right now!”
How very easy is it for our selfishness to subtly creep into our relationships?
How easy is it for our selfishness to suddenly thrust itself into relationships?
When you start a relationship, you work really hard at being unselfish.
But as time goes on, selfishness begins to creep in. We put more energy into building relationships than maintaining them.
If selfishness destroys relationships, then it is selflessness that makes them grow. What does selflessness mean? It means less of “me” and more of “you.”
It means thinking of others before you think of yourself and putting the other person’s needs before your own (Philippians 2:4).
Philippians 2:1-4 The Message
He Took on the Status of a Slave
2 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Selfishness brings out the worst in us.
Selflessness brings out the best in others.
It edifies, it builds faith and hope, trust and love in relationships.
In fact, if you start acting selfless in a relationship, it forces the other person to change, because you are no longer the same person anymore, and they have to learn how to adapt themselves to it and learn to relate to you in different way.
I worked many years serving the multitudinous needs of homeless veterans.
I’ve actually witnessed it many times — some of the most unlovable of people nobody in their “right and selfish minds” wants to be around, are transformed when someone exhibits both subtle and sudden and genuine kind and selfless behaviors toward them and gives them what they need, not what they deserve.
How to Be Selfless: An In-Depth Guide for Selfish People
When I think of selflessness, I can’t help but think of my parents’ example.
My father worked hard to support my family financially and never missed a day of work. My mom was a Registered Nurse for well over 40 years, she was always there for the hospitalized patients under her care. She was available to talk and support my sisters and I through our most insecure and awkward years of life.
Together, she and my dad strived to love us and be there in every high and low.
As you read this, I hope and fervently pray you too can likewise remember those in your life who have shown you this kind of selfless love, whether it be a family member, a friend, a mentor, or some stranger who simply decided to take a few moments to care for you. These moments, and these relationships, are ones that get etched in our memories; they are powerful and impactful in our lives.
While we know this to be true, and may desire to be selfless ourselves, it can be easy likewise to draw a line in the sand that we are unwilling or afraid to cross.
Luckily God knows this about us and has given us great examples in the Bible to teach us how to be selfless.
We will look briefly, specifically at the example of Jesus as he provides a guide for us on how to be less selfish. In this, Jesus will provide for us a total of 9 tips for how we can selflessly follow, model the example of Jesus in our own lives.
Being inviting means acknowledging the sacred worth of all, welcoming, validating, and including others in our life, heart, and friendship.
It is not always convenient, but it is a powerful display of selflessness that can have a profound impact on those around us.
Jesus shows us this through his example below.
“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”Mark 10:46-52 NIV
Jesus was not afraid to stop what he was doing (potentially inconveniencing himself) to selflessly invite others into a connection and relationship with him.
Nor was he afraid at all to be different from the crowd.
Jesus had an unconditionally compassionate and loving heart to be inviting.
While others around Bartimaeus just wanted him to go back to his customary roadside stand and stand down and be quiet, Jesus had reacted very differently.
He did not tell Bartimaeus to be quiet.
He did not tell him to return to where he came from and stop shouting.
He did not communicate that Bartimaeus was not good enough or that he was behaving wrong.
Jesus was inviting. He was interested. He was giving. He saw past Bartimaeus’s behavior into his heart. He asked Bartimaeus: “What can I do for you?”
‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:3-5 NIV
In this narrative passage, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on, own, and weigh the wrongs in our heart before pointing out the “specks” in others.
This is a critical and an essential element of selflessness: to care more about how we are impacting another person than how they are impacting us.
Admitting our own mistakes, sins, and weaknesses is actually a very important part of loving other people.
When we confess ourselves to God, admit the truth about ourselves, we not only protect ourselves from being self-righteous and critical of other people, but we also can more adequately heal those around us of the “specks” in their heart.
Instead of, rather than be motivated by self-protection, self-righteousness, or self-interest, or survival of the strongest and the fittest and the richest, we can serve, help others because of the care we have for those God has put in our lives.
Once we confess ourselves unto God and admit to those places where we need His mercy, we are way far better able to forgive others for their shortcomings.
Being forgiving is a form of giving charity to others; it is a way of our selflessly clearing a debt in a relationship. Forgiveness is not something that can be faked but must be arrived at genuinely and honestly. (Isaiah 1:16-20 The Message)
There are times in marriage and relationships where I am convinced others have wronged me. I feel that I won’t be satisfied until the injustice is pointed out and thoroughly and rigorously and vigorously and selfishly dealt with.
This mindset only drags things out, heightens the emotions between me and my friends, and certainly doesn’t help us to resolve our arguments or feel close.
God teaches me, and I fervently pray He teaches you, that when we can admit our own faults, we will be more able to forgive, show mercy, and feel blessed.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Matthew 5:7 NIV
Matthew 5:7 Amplified: 7 “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
God values and appreciates when we show mercy to those around us.
Mercy is something near and dear to God.
He decided to display his love to us through showing us mercy (Romans 5:8).
Since this is the way God loves us, we can model this love. We can love others in the same way, through showing them mercy and forgiveness the way Jesus did.
A critically important part of modelling selflessness like Jesus, is our decision to acknowledge, value another enough to be available and to be interested in them.
Modelling Christ-like availability communicates that we value another greater than ourselves. It is our act of self-sacrifice and selflessness that places oneself aside to like Christ, to listen to, consider, feel for, and understand someone else.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’John 5:2-3,5-6 NIV
Jesus often displayed his availability to others around him in a way that was shocking and ground-breaking. He unhesitatingly noticed people that others went out their way and ignored. He would touch people who were cast out.
In this passage, he interacted with and listened to the needs of a man who was paralyzed (and had no other friends – John 5:7). Jesus didn’t just speak to him but also took an interest in and helped him. Jesus was selfless in his availability to without hesitation, acknowledge to feel, talk, work with those around him.
Being serving is a great way to give selflessly in humility.
It is a critically essential way to prioritize those around us, acknowledging, dedicating our thoughts and emotions to the needs and desires of others.
And as Jesus shows us, if we have any power or authority in a relationship, we should use this position to serve.
Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called “friends of the people.” But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.’Luke 22:25-27 NLT
Here, Jesus teaches us to not concern ourselves with our position, status, or performance. What matters is deciding to concern ourselves with serving the needs and desires of others. This is what it truly means to be a real friend.
Selfless friendship is the best kind of friendship because it is not predicated on getting our needs met but acting independently of how the other person treats us. When we love and give to others, our fulfillment comes from modelling and experiencing, knowing that serving is pleasing in God’s eyes. (Proverbs 27:17)
Here are some ideas of ways and means we can choose to be serving today:
- Ask someone around you if there is anything you can do for them.
- Prioritize the needs of others as if you feel the need for it yourself.
- Do chores around the house without someone asking you (my wife likes this one for me – especially when I do the dishes without her telling me twice).
- Pick up groceries for a friend or neighbor.
- Drop off a friend’s favorite meal.
- Volunteer in your community.
Admiring, praising, and encouraging those around us is a way to be selfless.
When we do this, we are able to subtly shift the focus from ourselves (our envy, our malignant competitiveness, or insecurities) and instead focus on admiring and encouraging and inspiring someone else.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other namesPhilippians 2:3-9 NLT
In this scripture, Jesus’ example teaches me that my value and fulfillment do not come from my status, my success, or how I am seen by others.
Without moans, groans and complaints, Jesus gave up divine privileges, did not try to cling to status of any kind. Instead, he humbled himself, served others.
When we follow and model Jesus’ example, we won’t focus on the admiration and praise we can earn for ourselves or receive for our own behalf, but we will subtly start looking for ways to share encouragement with others around us.
Jesus lowered himself, so that he could elevate others.
He set an example for us to follow.
In the end God made sure that Jesus knew his value and was himself fulfilled.
To model and practice being “admiring,” think of people you otherwise envy, compete with, or have difficulty loving.
- Choose to think of ways you admire them (example: what are their strengths or how can you learn from them?)
- Text them words of encouragement.
- Think of ways you can make them greater.
- What do you learn about Jesus’ humility towards God and how did that translate to how he lived while on Earth?
- Like Jesus did, how can you empty yourself and live to serve and love others?
- Who is your mentor? That someone you know who is innately selflessly humble that you can admire and learn and model Christ from?
Empathy is our ability to sense, understand, and imagine what another person is thinking or feeling. It is the ability to put ourselves in the spot of another to prayerfully perceive and understand what they may think, feel, need, or desire.
God and Jesus demonstrate this in the scripture below from Hebrews chapter 4.
When we see and are grateful for the empathy Jesus displays for us, we are able to do the same for others.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”– Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV
God and Jesus see our thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. They are able to understand and act in empathy and unconditional love toward us. This empathy produces in us confidence and Shalom as we rely on the graciousness of God.
In the same way, we can foster peace and confidence in others around us by practicing empathy ourselves.
When we model Christ in this way, we respond with gratitude for the empathy God always has for us, we are free, secure, confident to empathize with others.
This is the ripple effect of empathy.
- Pray about God’s love for you and how God and Jesus have empathized with you
- Pray about a few other people in your life and what they are going through. Ask God to help them with some of the things you think they might need. Praying for others not only helps us empathize with them, it’s also a way to spiritually serve by asking God to enter into their neighborhood and to meet their needs.
Jesus was a model leader, not just in his words or ability to move a crowd.
What really made Jesus a leader, and even attracted the crowds to him in the first place?
He would be the first to initiate giving to others who could not give back to him.
He repeatedly asked the beneficiaries of his love to say nothing to anyone else.
Other times he would leave before the person could even find out who he was.
In this way Jesus initiated by giving without expecting any return.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV
Jesus died for us, knowing that many of us would not care and would rather choose to still live self-absorbed lives. But he did it anyway so that we could have the very real choice and very real chance to be free and live a new life.
When we see and believe this personally, it changes us. We become not only willing to live selflessly ourselves, but we desire to. We initiate giving unto others, not in any selfish expectation of any return, but really to thank God.
Try surprising your family, friends or a stranger with a gift, for no reason.
One way to examine the purity of our selflessness is to see whether or not we persevere in love even when it is difficult.
Oftentimes in my marriage, I am amazed and stunned by how it is that my wife continues to extend mercy to me and patiently encourages me along in change, even when I am being ridiculously stubborn, self-consumed, and unchanging.
I know her persevering love is rooted in her appreciation for God’s own persevering love, mercy, and patience in her life.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8 NIV
No matter how often we feel it is not true, the Bible calls us to live as though we are always in debt to those around us in our love.
God loves us enough to pay the price for our sins, if we choose to accept it. We can never adequately repay this debt, but we can continually remember to love one another because of how much we have been loved. (John 3:16-17)
God urges us to not treat his love with contempt, but to respond in gratitude (Romans 2:4), modelling, living our lives as if we still have a debt remaining in our relationships with those family, friends and neighbors who are around us.
This is what it means to persevere in selflessness, even when impossibly hard.
- Pray about someone you get tired of loving.
- In the moments that it is difficult to love and reflect on how God loved you.
- Decide to love those around you out of a love for God, not just based on your feelings toward the person.
We Reap what we Sow ….
We sow selfishness – we reap selfishness
We sow selflessness – we reap God in Christ Jesus in our neighborhoods.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Almighty and Charitable God,
we praise and thank you for making us children of God,
not through our own power and piety
but through our baptism into crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
We turn daily to you,
and in that turning we find peace, courage and purpose.
Make your whole church a witness
to the great good news of Christ’s resurrection.
God, our Savior, hear our prayer.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.