Some of the fundamental teachings of Jesus have always seemed incredible to the unconverted world! For example, He said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt. 16:25). By this statement and many others like it, Jesus taught that personal fulfillment is not to be found in a self-centered approach to life, but that it is a by-product of self-giving.
This concept is one which we recognize and submit to in the laws of nature and economy. We understand the meaning of “investment and return.” We display a reluctance, however, to apply the principle to the moral and spiritual areas of our lives!
Our affluence has offered opportunity to compare and test spiritual and materialistic value systems. The tendency toward hedonism is far greater in a social order in which there is such a wide distribution of wealth, where pleasures are so accessible to the average person. Combined with a moral permissiveness, these conditions challenge traditional values. We are reminded, “You only go around once.” Even the biblical truth that we must love ourselves in order to love others has been perverted to accommodate selfishness.
In our times we see graphic examples which validate the claims of Jesus in practical experience. Our “Me Generation” clearly illustrates the folly of self-indulgence. Never have we seen the instability, discontent, and frustration of humanity more vividly demonstrated than in those whose primary interest is self-gratification.
They are insatiable. Ever lusting, ever experiencing, never content-quick starters who are attracted to every fad that promises to bring any measure of meaning into their lives. They “burn out” as quickly as they start. They fail to develop character. They admit that loyalty is not their strong suit. They are indecisive, impulsive, and soon discouraged.
The principle of contentment through self-giving, however, has a much better track record. We are tested and strengthened by sacrifice. When we make our choices on the basis of values rather than on impulse, our commitments are more solid. Having exercised responsibility in selecting our goals, we have a clearer sense of direction, and are not so easily diverted. It all comes down to a question of whether the road to personal fulfillment is through self-giving or through self-indulgence. The evidence is that self-indulgence produces moral and spiritual flabbiness, while self-giving produces men and women of character, integrity, and perseverance.
From Guest Editorial V
By R. Dean Catlett
Minister of the church of Christ in Bend, OR.