Compassion Can Control Selfishness
Genuine compassion for others can help control our selfishness. In John 5 we meet some very selfish, unloving religious people. Jesus healed a man who was lame for 38 years, and you think everyone would be excited, but the Jews were upset. Why? Because Jesus was being praised by the people, and not them. They were so selfish that they could not even rejoice that that the lame man could walk. And Jesus spoke to them in John 5:42-44:
“I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. [Now, listen to this,] 44 How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”
Jesus said, “How can you even believe…” He didn’t say, “How can you be the best Christian you can possibly be….” He didn’t say, “How are you going to make an elder or a deacon if you act like this.” He said, “You cannot even have faith if your goal in life is to seek your own gain.” Think about that. Jesus said, “If your motivation, if your desire is nothing but to receive glory from men, you cannot even believe.”
There is a story about an elderly lady who had her chauffeur drive up in front of a cemetery. The chauffeur went and got the director of the cemetery and brought him to the car, and in very weak voice she said, “I’m the lady who’s been sending the $50 every week for the last two years for flowers.” He said, “Oh yes, I know who you are.” She said, “I just wanted to come one last time, the doctor said I only have a few weeks to live. I just wanted to see the grave of my loved one, one last time.” The director pressed his lips together and said, “Lady, it’s a shame you’ve been sending these flowers here all the time.” She said, “What!?” He said, “You know when you think about it, nobody appreciates those flowers. You put those flowers on the grave of a dead man. You know what would have been better? I visit my sister in the hospital every day. She has cancer. And I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people up there. And I take flowers to people who really appreciate them. I wish you would have sent your money somewhere else, lady.”
The lady thought for a second, and without a word she motioned for the chauffeur to take her down the road. About two months later that same big, black limousine pulled up in front of the cemetery, only this time the lady was driving the car. And this time, the lady got out of the car and walked up to the director’s office. He looked excited to see her, and he said, “You look to be doing well.” She said, “Yeah, I’m going to the hospitals now, and I’m taking flowers there and to the state schools. And you know, the doctors can’t explain why I’m getting so much better. But I know why, I have somebody else to live for now.”
That kind of sums it up; that no man is really alive until he has somebody else to live for. I believe that would cure a lot of the problems today. I believe that our self-centeredness even makes us sick. We always focus on our little hangnail, or our little headache. But let me give you my own recipe for a healthy life: get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and find somebody you can help, and I believe we would have a healthier life—I know a happier one. Because you’re not really alive until you live for somebody else.