Do you ever worry that God might ask too much of you? Has the thought that God might be a harsh taskmaster ever flashed across your mind in a moment of struggle or doubt? Sometimes it seems that Scripture’s calls to self-denial and sacrifice are so extreme that we’re left wondering, “Is God going to ask me to give up so much that I’ll have nothing left?”
Jonathan Edwards anticipated that fear as he preached a sermon on how love is the opposite of selfishness. He first challenged his listeners to love others as Christ has loved us, but then he wisely reminded them (and us) that such radical, sacrificial willingness to put others’ interests above our own is ultimately in our best interests as well. Listen to his words:
If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interest your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interests as well as you can. But if you do not selfishly seek your own, but do seek the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and the things of your fellow-beings, then God will make your interest and happiness his own charge, and he is infinitely more able to provide for and promote it than you are. The resources of the universe move at his bidding, and he can easily command them all to subserve your welfare. So then not to seek your own [interests], in the selfish sense, is the best way of seeking your own in a better sense. (emphasis added).
Beneath all our struggles to be selfless lies a deeper struggle: the battle to trust God with our own ultimate good as we lay down our temporary good for others. What good news to know that as we struggle to live selflessly the God who owns the universe is committed by His own promises to care to look out for our interests far better than we ever could!
Philippians 4:19-20: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Note: if you want to read the whole sermon by Edwards, it’s found in chapter 8 of Charity And Its Fruits, p. 184.