I encourage you to read Philp 2:1-15, but specifically verses 2-5 say, “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” As I prayed last week about what God wanted me to preach on Sunday, a word immediately popped in my head: Altruism. It’s wonderful to hear God’s voice! I had no idea what altruism meant. I had to go look it up. When I found out what it meant, I was even more excited, because it is a word that describes a core principle of Christian Theology. Numerous verses of Scripture came to my mind as I read the definition of the word. The word paints a picture of Jesus Himself.
Can you stand the suspense any longer? Here is the definition: The attitude of caring about others and doing acts that help them, although you do not get anything by doing those acts (Cambridge Dict.). The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others (Oxford Dict.). Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness (American Heritage Dict.). A concern or regard for the needs of others, entirely without ulterior motive (-Ologies & -Isms). 2. (Philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others (Collins English Dict.).
I titled the message “True” Altruism, to separate it from the philosophical definition offered in the last paragraph. That definition can be dangerous, because it is very subjective. For instance, liberals will say that greatly restricting or eliminating the second amendment will benefit everyone; actually, it would only benefit corrupt governments and criminals. It would not at all benefit honest citizens who want to protect their lives and families. It would not benefit hunters, sportsmen, etc. True altruism is Biblical altruism. Some related words for altruism are: selflessness, charity, goodwill, generosity, self-sacrifice, benevolence, unselfishness. Contrasting words are: greedy, self-interest, self-absorption, self-seeking, self-centeredness, egotistical. Jesus was the perfect example of altruism. As stated in Philp. 2, though He was equal to God, He made Himself of no reputation, and took on the role of a servant. He sought not His own comfort, but sought the will of The Father and gave His life, so all mankind could partake in eternal life.
We are to let His mind be in us (Philp. 2:5). “But wait - I thought Believers already had the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16)? “ Indeed - but it is in our spirit. We must let His mind (in our spirit) have control in our natural mind. We must yield ourselves to The Spirit and Word in order for the mind of Christ to function in our lives. If we do not meditate on The Word and live spirit-led lives, we will function only according to the natural mind; which by nature is self-centered, self-interested, self-absorbed, etc. We are to give others the preference and be kind (Rom 12:10). We are not to be self-pleasers, but edify our neighbor as Christ did (Rom 15:1-3). We are not to seek our own well-being, but the well-being of others (1Cor 10:24). Selfless love does not “seek her own” (1Cor 13:5). We are to submit to one another (take the lower position) and walk in humility (Eph 4:2, 5:21, 1Pt 5:5). In Luke 14:8-11, Jesus gives us a good example of humility and selflessness, by encouraging us to take the lower position, so that God may exalt us.
Altruism is not just about action, but motive. Is our motive pure for our good deed? If not, it’s not truly altruism. For instance, if I have your car detailed just to bless you, expecting nothing in return, then that is altruistic. However, if you are a good plumber, and I have some leaking pipes I need fixed, so I detail your car in hopes you’ll volunteer to fix my pipes - then that is not altruistic. My motive is selfish. Altruism also means doing something without murmuring and complaining (Philp. 2:14-15). If I do a kind deed, but do it with a bad attitude, then that is not altruistic. Don’t think you are being altruistic if you wearily let someone know how much it “put you out” to do this or that.
Abraham demonstrated altruism in Gen 13:9. He , with a pure heart, didn’t want there to be strife between Lot and himself. He told Lot to pick wherever he wanted to go, and he would go the opposite direction. Do you always have to have your way? Do you fight, claw, manipulate, whine, steal, etc., so as to get your own way? Be a blessing to others, give up your own way, and let God bless you. You see, after Lot picked the best land (typical in the selfish), God told Abraham (my paraphrase), “Hey Abraham, that was a kind gesture; very altruistic. But guess what? I am giving all the land to you!” When we humble ourselves and take the lower position - God will exalt us. God will reward us. God will bless us.
So many today quit their marriage, their family, their church, their friends, their job - because they are not getting their way. Where is humility? Where is altruism? Where is selflessness? If we are Christians, altruism should be a constant in our lives. Is there nothing we can do or give up to bless, help, or please someone else? No doubt, the depression epidemic in our society is rooted in self-centeredness. Altruistic people are happy people. Spend your time blessing others, with a pure heart and motive, and that elusive joy you’ve been seeking through catering to “self” will effortlessly appear in no time. Until next time, rejoice in the Lord!