Unselfishness

“And Joab was told, ‘Behold, the king is weeping and morning for Absalom.’ So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, ‘The king is grieved for his son.’ And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle” (2 Samuel 19:1-3 NKJV).

During a campaign to South Asia, I am always confronted by many people with pressing needs who look to me to help resolve those issues. Most are financial in nature, as they struggle to meet rising costs of food, housing, medical treatment, and education for their children. Though I must balance the needs of any one petitioner against the many who will make requests, and the overall needs of the churches in several countries, everyone is preoccupied with his or her own situation and rarely able or willing to consider the many others in similar circumstances. Everywhere and all of the time it seems that we all think “It is all about me.”

Few of us would criticize David for grieving at the death of his beloved son Absalom. It is quite likely that Absalom was his oldest surviving child, and it is evident that he was a particular favorite. In spite of his personal request to deal gently with him, Joab had killed him without mercy. David’s grief overwhelmed any joy or thanksgiving over the victory his army had secured.

But Joab understood that even David could not always put his own needs or feelings above those of others. David was not just the father of Absalom; he was King of Israel and the beloved leader of his army of veteran warriors. By giving in to his grief, he shamed the victorious army and that shame threatened to take their loyalty from him.

The plain truth is, “IT” (whatever “IT” is) is never just about me. I am no more important than others whom God has made and whom he loves. Paul stated it plainly: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

No spiritual fruit is more important to Christian character than humility. This world does not center itself around my desires or feelings. Even when I am in the deepest crisis, others also have needs and I must be aware of and sensitive to them. Just as David had to dry his eyes, put on his royal robes, and greet his returning soldiers with gratitude, so must each of us respond to others even when we are in need of comfort or help.

What is often overlooked is that the best way of finding the comfort we need is to attend to the needs of others. Preoccupation with our own problems leads to self-pity and wallowing in our own misery. Most of us have observed others who seemed to enjoy their suffering. We are probably less able to recognize that condition in ourselves. But when we shift our attention to someone else, as David did, we recover more quickly and completely from our own plight. As Paul reminds us, that is the mind of Christ which should always be our example and goal (Philippians 2:5).

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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