Beyond Self-Interest: Embracing Disadvantage for the Blessing of Others

Jesus Healing SickThe more I understand biblical Christianity, the more I think our advance to maturity involves being willingly disadvantaged that others might receive an advantage. To be voluntarily disadvantaged means I am deprived of something so that others might gain an asset, an edge, a benefit, or an opportunity they might not have otherwise. This is charitable on my part, in which I give for the benefit of others. This is how Jesus lived, as He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus voluntarily gave His life on the cross that others might obtain what they could not receive by any other means; forgiveness of sins and eternal life. What was a disadvantage to Him resulted in a benefit to us.

The purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to result in forgiveness and salvation to humanity, granting us an advantage or opportunity for eternal life with God. From this perspective, it can be said that Jesus voluntarily assumed a position of disadvantage by taking on human form, enduring suffering, and ultimately sacrificing His life so that we might have an advantage, which is the opportunity for forgiveness, salvation, and reconciliation with God. When we embrace this way of thinking, it will become more natural for us to think of others over self. Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

Too often we ask, “What’s in it for me?” or “What do I get out of this?” When it comes to loving others in the biblical sense, we should not ask what others can do for us, but what we can do for others, that they might be blessed through our sacrifice and service. This way of thinking is completely antithetical to our fallen human natures and the values of the world. What I’m describing is virtue love; a love that is thoughtful, sacrificial, and constantly thinks of how others might be edified, encouraged, or built up in some way. Examples might include giving of our time to arrive early at church to make sure everything is clean before others arrive, or speaking a kind word to a discouraged heart, or giving of our finances to support a growing Christian ministry, or working extra hours to help a coworker succeed, or giving up our lunch hour to mow a widows overgrown yard, or to sacrifice a vacation to help a struggling family with food, rent, or auto repair.

This way of living gives and expects nothing in return. It looks for those who are so impoverished that they cannot repay. Jesus said, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14). There’s nothing wrong with entertaining and caring for family and friends; however, we should not be concerned only with these, but also with serving the less fortunate. We should be intentional about helping “orphans and widows in their distress” (Jam 1:27), because it is right in God’s sight to help to the needy. Those who live this way will be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21), will “store up treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:20), and will hear the words of the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Matt 25:21).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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