While Jesus had been travelling from one place to another, spreading his message about the kingdom of heaven, one man came to him seeking a hurried clarification. “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”, he asked. He added that he had been following all of God’s commandments. This is what Jesus had to say to him, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and then come, follow me.” The man was of course disappointed. (Matthew 19:16-22) Jesus’ answer was not about the ease of going cashless but about the long term benefits of selfless living.
Jesus’ warning was against developing a strong attachment to our possessions and our lives. It was against getting obsessed with one’s self. Selfless living does not mean that we let go of our self-confidence and self-esteem. In fact, in today’s competitive world, it is even necessary to develop them. However, what is not right is the positioning of the self at the top of one’s priorities. What is not right is pushing others out of our way to further our self-interests, ignoring their feelings and sentiments.
Jesus gave some practical advice too, “When you are invited to a function, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:10-11)
Selfless living involves service to others. Jesus said, “The more lowly your service to others, the greater you are. To be the greatest, be a servant. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honoured.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
And speaking about himself, Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.” (Matthew 20:28) In the ultimate sense, selfless living is dying for others.