Why Be Self-Sacrificing?

Bill is a family man in his 50’s who is a teacher of building technology. Throughout the year, at his own expense, he spends many weeks helping to plan for and build Kingdom Halls for congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Emma is a well-educated and well-qualified single 22-year-old. Instead of pursuing purely personal goals and pleasures, she spends over 70 hours each month as a minister, helping people to understand the Bible. Maurice and Betty are retired. Rather than take things a bit easier now, they have moved to another country to assist people there to learn about God’s purpose for the earth.

THESE individuals do not consider themselves to be special or extraordinary. They are just normal people doing what they consider to be the right thing to do. Why do they use their time, energy, abilities, and resources in the interests of others? What motivates them is a deep love for God and for their neighbor. This love has generated in each one of them a genuine self-sacrificing spirit.

What do we mean by a self-sacrificing spirit? Well, to be self-sacrificing does not require leading an austere or ascetic life. It need not involve extreme self-denial that robs us of joy or satisfaction. As The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary puts it, self-sacrifice simply means “the giving up of one’s own interests, happiness, and desires, for the sake of duty or the welfare of others.”

Jesus Christ​—The Prime Example

God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the prime example of someone with a self-sacrificing spirit. In his prehuman existence, his life must have been stimulating and satisfying to the highest degree. He had close, intimate association with his Father and with spirit creatures. Moreover, God’s Son used his abilities in challenging and exciting activities as “a master worker.” (Proverbs 8:30, 31) He certainly lived amid conditions far superior to anything that even the richest person on earth could ever have  enjoyed. Next to Jehovah God, he had an exalted and privileged position in heaven.

Yet, God’s Son “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) He willingly relinquished all his personal advantages by becoming a human and offering his life as a ransom in order to undo the harm caused by Satan. (Genesis 3:1-7; Mark 10:45) That meant coming to live among sinful mankind in a world lying in the power of Satan the Devil. (1 John 5:19) It also meant putting up with personal discomfort and inconvenience. Whatever it cost him, however, Jesus Christ was determined to do his Father’s will. (Matthew 26:39; John 5:30; 6:38) This tested Jesus’ love and loyalty to the limit. How far was he willing to go? “He humbled himself,” said the apostle Paul, “and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”​—Philippians 2:8.

“Keep This Mental Attitude in You”

We are encouraged to follow Jesus’ example. “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus,” urged Paul. (Philippians 2:5) How can we do this? One way is by “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:4) Genuine love “does not look for its own interests.”​—1 Corinthians 13:5.

Caring individuals have often shown selfless dedication in the service of others. Today, however, many people tend to be self-centered. The world has a me-first attitude. We need to guard against the spirit of the world because if it succeeds in molding our outlook and attitude, likely we will make our own desires of paramount importance. Then everything we do​—how we spend our time, our energy, our resources—​will be dominated by self-centered concerns. We therefore need to put up a hard fight against this influence.

Even well-intentioned advice can at times dampen our spirit of self-sacrifice. Realizing where Jesus’ self-sacrificing course was leading, the apostle Peter said: “Be kind to yourself, Lord.” (Matthew 16:22) He apparently found it difficult to accept Jesus’ willingness to go as far as death in the interests of his Father’s sovereignty and the salvation of mankind. So he tried to dissuade Jesus from pursuing such a course.

‘Disown Yourself’

How did Jesus react? The account says: “He turned, looked at his disciples and rebuked Peter, and said: ‘Get behind me, Satan, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.’” Jesus then called the crowd to him with his disciples and said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and follow me continually.”​—Mark 8:33, 34.

Some 30 years after he gave this advice to Jesus, Peter showed that by then he understood the meaning of self-sacrifice. He did not encourage fellow believers to take it easy and be kind to themselves. Instead, Peter exhorted them to brace up their minds for activity and quit being fashioned according to their former worldly desires. Despite trials, they were to put the doing of God’s will first in their lives.​—1 Peter 1:6, 13, 14; 4:1, 2.

The most rewarding course any of us can pursue is to give ownership of ourselves to Jehovah, following Jesus Christ faithfully  and letting God direct our activities. In this regard, Paul set a fine example. His sense of urgency and his gratitude to Jehovah moved him to relinquish worldly aspirations or prospects that could have sidetracked him from doing God’s will. “For my part,” he said, “I will most gladly spend and be completely spent” in serving the interests of others. (2 Corinthians 12:15) Paul used his abilities to further divine interests, not his own.​—Acts 20:24; Philippians 3:8.

How might we examine ourselves to see if we have an outlook like that of the apostle Paul? We might ask ourselves questions like these: How do I use my time, my energy, my abilities, and my resources? Do I use these and other precious gifts simply to further my own interests, or do I use them to help others? Have I considered sharing more fully in the lifesaving work of declaring the good news, perhaps as a full-time Kingdom proclaimer? Could I get more fully involved in such activities as building or maintaining Kingdom Halls? Am I seizing opportunities to assist needy ones? Do I give Jehovah my best?​—Proverbs 3:9.

“More Happiness in Giving”

Yet, is it really wise to be self-sacrificing? It is indeed! Paul knew from personal experience that such a spirit brings rich rewards. It brought him great happiness and immense personal satisfaction. He explained this to the older men from Ephesus when he met with them at Miletus. Said Paul: “I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring [in a self-sacrificing way] you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:35) Millions of people have found that manifesting this kind of spirit brings great happiness right now. It will also bring joy in the future when Jehovah rewards those who put his interests and those of others ahead of their own.​—1 Timothy 4:8-10.

When asked why he exerted himself in assisting others to build Kingdom Halls, Bill commented: “Helping what are often smaller congregations in this way gives me great personal satisfaction. I enjoy using what skills and expertise I have for the benefit of  others.” Why has Emma chosen to devote her energies and abilities to help others to learn Scriptural truth? “I could not imagine doing anything else. While still young and able to do so, I just want to do as much as I can to please Jehovah and help others. Sacrificing some material advantages is no big thing. I am doing only what I ought to do in view of what Jehovah has done for me.”

Maurice and Betty have no regrets over not taking up a life of ease, following years of hard work in raising and providing for their family. Now that they are retired, they want to continue doing something useful and meaningful with their lives. “We do not simply want to sit back and relax now,” they say. “Helping others learn about Jehovah in a foreign country gives us the opportunity to keep doing something purposeful.”

Are you determined to be self-sacrificing? This will not be easy. There is a constant battle between our imperfect human desires and our earnest wish to please God. (Romans 7:21-23) But it is a battle that can be won if we let Jehovah direct our lives. (Galatians 5:16, 17) He surely will remember our self-sacrificing work in his service and will bless us richly. Indeed, Jehovah God will ‘open the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon us a blessing until there is no more want.’​—Malachi 3:10; Hebrews 6:10.

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Jesus had a self-sacrificing spirit. Do you?

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Paul focused his efforts on the Kingdom-preaching work