By William F. Gierke
"For even Christ pleased not Himself" (Rom. 15:3).
"Am I my brother’s keeper?" (Gen. 4:9).
Too legibly are the characters written on the fallen heart and a fallen world – "All seek their own!" Selfishness is the great law of our degenerated nature. When the love of God was dethroned from the soul, SELF immediately occupied the vacant seat, and resumed its former reign.
Jesus stands out for our imitation, a grand solitary exception in the midst of a world of selfishness. His entire life was one abnegation of self; a beautiful living embodiment of that love which "seeketh not her own" (1 Cor. 13:5). He who for others turned water into wine (John 2) and provided a miraculous supply for the fainting thousands in the wilderness (Matt. 14:15-21) exerted no such miraculous power for His own necessities.
During His forty days of temptation, no table did He spread for Himself, no booth did He rear for His unpillowed head (Matt. 4:1-11). Twice do we read of Him shedding tears – over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and again at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35). On neither occasion were they for Himself.
The approach of His Cross and passion, instead of absorbing Him in His own approaching sufferings, seemed only to elicit new and more gracious promises to His people. When His enemies came to apprehend Him, His only stipulation was for His disciples' release – "Let these go their way" (John 18:8). In the very act of departure, with all the boundless glories of eternity in sight, they were still all His care.
Example of Abraham
What a beautiful manifestation of unselfishness we gather from the life of the friend of God, even faithful Abraham. The herdsmen of Abraham and his nephew Lot could not agree upon a proper division of pasture lands. In order to prevent a quarrel between them, which might have proven a scandal in the eyes of the heathen in whose land they dwelt, Abraham suggested a separation. Listen to his message, born of a heart in close communion with his God.
"Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Gen. 13:8-9).
Lot, the very incarnation of selfishness, moved wholly by an unscriptural motive of worldly advantage for himself and his own family, chose the well-watered plain of Jordan, leaving to his Uncle Abraham, his best earthly friend and benefactor, the barren, unfruitful desert to sustain the latter's flocks and herds.
This base ingratitude manifested in such a wrong and unscriptural choice, would have aroused the resentment of the average man and perhaps inspired to a thirst for revenge. Yet we find Abraham, the friend of God, was moved with compassion and determined the rescue of Lot, when disaster had overtaken him by being taken captive during the war against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their confederates. Abraham delivered him out of the hands of his enemies, recovering and restoring to Lot all the property lost as a result of the conflict, and even refusing to accept the large reward offered him by the King of Sodom for his successful intervention and victory over the united kings (Gen. 14:17-24).
Another example of Abraham's unselfish spirit is found recorded in his intercessory prayer in behalf of the righteous in the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, his wife and two daughters were delivered by the destroying angels, who could not begin their work of destruction until they had been removed to a place of safety.
What a marvelous manifestation of an unselfish spirit! What a scriptural example of self-control over human impulses and a spirit of forgiveness! No thirsting for revenge, no gloating over the misfortunes of another, no expressions so common to many of us, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
No, no, Abraham manifested the fruits of the Spirit in his hour of trial (Gal. 5:22-23). He literally obeyed the scriptural injunction of Romans 12:17-21. No wonder that the record of his precious life and ministry, a sweet smelling savour unto God during his earthly life, is still bearing abundant fruit for God in our day.