Are You Self-Indulgent—or Self-Sacrificing?
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.’”—Matt. 16:24.
1. What is the attitude of increasing numbers of persons today?
FOR many people in the world today, the thought of making personal sacrifices for someone else, or for a cause, does not have much appeal. Indeed, the attitude of increasing numbers of persons is to want more material things, more pleasures and more freedom to do whatever they desire, with little regard for God or man. Even the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of one’s own family has diminished in recent years, as family breakdowns and divorces have reached record highs in nation after nation.
2. Why is this self-indulgent trend no surprise to Bible students?
2 This self-indulgent trend does not come as a surprise to those who have kept alert to God’s inspired Word, the Holy Bible. Accurately that prophetic Word foretold that in these “last days” many would be “lovers of themselves,” “lovers of money,” “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” So intent are some people in pursuing their self-indulgent ways that the Bible says they are “without self-control.” This can also be seen in the huge increase of alcoholism, drug abuse and sexual immorality in recent years.—2 Tim. 3:1-4.
3. What opposite attitude exists, and who recommends it?
3 However, there exists also the opposite attitude, that of self-sacrifice. It is a course recommended by no less an authority than the Almighty Creator of the universe, Jehovah God himself. But such a course of self-sacrifice—is it not outdated in these modern times? Why should anyone want to be interested in that when more and more people are not?
WHAT IS INVOLVED
4, 5. How did Jesus speak of a course of self-sacrifice, and what did he mean by his words?
4 It is very important that we have the right view of this matter of self-sacrifice as opposed to self-indulgence. Regarding this, Jesus Christ said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake is the one that will save it. Really, what does a man benefit himself if he gains the whole world but loses his own self or suffers damage?”—Luke 9:23-25.
5 Jesus was here describing a course of self-sacrifice. And he took the lead in demonstrating what this meant. He said: “I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30) Thus, the reason Jesus undertook a course of self-sacrifice was so that he could fully accomplish the will of his heavenly Father, Jehovah. That course is the one Jesus recommended to his followers. He said that they should be willing to “disown” themselves, meaning that they should subdue their own personal desires and make the doing of God’s will the main thing in their lives.
6. (a) What cost can be involved in a course of self-sacrifice? (b) By doing God’s will, how can one ‘save his soul’?
6 True, such a life of self-sacrifice is not easy. It involves a cost, which includes time and effort. In some cases it may even mean the loss of one’s life at the hands of those who persecute God’s servants. However, as Jesus showed, the one doing God’s will would ‘save his soul,’ or life. In what way? In that he would gain Jehovah’s approval and the eventual reward that God promises all those who serve him, for he is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) For most of God’s loyal servants, that reward is eternal life in a righteous new order here on earth: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Ps. 37:29) And “they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:11) Nor can death itself stand in the way of this reward, because Jehovah guarantees that there is going to be “a resurrection of life.”—John 5:29.
7. Why is the future that Jehovah promises worth any cost to us?
7 Yes, life is at stake in this matter of self-sacrifice as opposed to self-indulgence! And what a marvelous life—living forever amid paradise conditions that will make every day an “exquisite delight”! Truly, that will be the real life. No course of life you could now choose in this world, no amount of hard work at any trade or profession, no acts of loyalty to any human or organization of this world could ever produce a future such as Jehovah promises those who serve him. Surely, then, it is well worth whatever sacrifices may be involved.
THE NEED TO KEEP AWAKE
8, 9. Why do we need to intensify our efforts to keep awake and to make sacrifices now?
8 As we progress deep into the “last days” there is an ever greater need to keep wide awake spiritually and to intensify our willingness to make sacrifices to serve God acceptably. One reason for this is the fact that Satan the Devil knows that he has only “a short period of time” left before he is put out of the way. (Rev. 12:12; 20:1-3) Since his time by now is very short, we can expect him to intensify his insane efforts to corrupt and destroy. He would like nothing better than to influence Jehovah’s servants to dull their spiritual perception and to lose their sense of urgency regarding these critical times. And he would certainly be most pleased if they would diminish, or abandon altogether, their telling of the “good news of the kingdom” of God to others.—Matt. 24:14.
9 We should not underestimate Satan’s capacity for deception and harm. Jehovah’s inspired Word warns: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith.” (1 Pet. 5:8, 9) If a wise person knew that a crazed lion was on the loose in the neighborhood, he would take every possible precaution to protect himself and his family, would he not?
10, 11. (a) What warning did Jesus give about over-indulgence? (b) Why do Jesus’ words apply even to some within Jehovah’s organization today?
10 Jesus spoke of the need for alertness when he said regarding the coming destruction of this present wicked system of things: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
11 To whom was Jesus talking? In this case he was talking to his followers. Yet he warned them that, unless they stayed awake, even some of them could be caught off guard when Jehovah’s day of destruction came. What would lead to their getting caught off guard? They would become too involved with the everyday cares of this life, or with overindulging themselves in pleasures. Those cautioning words of Jesus are a real warning for us today. Because this system’s end has not yet arrived, some who are serving Jehovah may be tempted to slack off in their desire to make sacrifices for him. They may think that his new order is too far off in the distant future to regard this present situation with urgency. They may feel that they should be more concerned with leading a so-called “normal” life.
12. Does it make sense to search for a “normal” life in this system?
12 Yet, from God’s viewpoint, can any way of life in this system of things be “normal”? This world is under the influence of Satan and his demons, dominated by harsh political systems, greedy commercial interests and selfish false religions. It is filled with fear, hatred, violence, immorality, corruption, economic difficulties, sickness and death. All of this is far from the normal life that Jehovah has purposed for mankind, which includes perfect health, complete security and happiness, as well as eternal life, and all of this on a paradise earth. Hence, life now is far from normal. It is very abnormal, and it will stay that way until Jehovah crushes out of existence this entire wicked system, paving the way for his glorious new order. So it is a self-delusion to search for normality in an abnormal world.
13. What are some examples of persons overreached by Satan because of self-indulgence?
13 What a calamity it could be, at this late date, for a Christian to ignore Jesus’ warning, relax his guard and endanger his relationship with Jehovah! Such a one could leave himself wide open to fall into “the snare of the Devil . . . caught alive by him for the will of that one.” (2 Tim. 2:26) This is just what happened in the first century to Demas, once a Christian. Of him, the apostle Paul said: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.” (2 Tim. 4:10) Lot’s wife was another who fell into Satan’s trap. She disobediently looked back at Sodom when it was being destroyed and ‘lost her soul.’ For good reason did Jesus say: “Remember the wife of Lot.” (Luke 17:32) Then there was Esau, who gave up his birthright for a temporary material advantage. What poor judgment that was! (Gen. 25:29-34) Another was Achan, who thought more of money and fancy clothes than he did of Jehovah’s purpose. (Josh. 7:1, 20-25) Sadly, all such ones paid heavily for having the spirit of self-indulgence instead of the spirit of self-sacrifice. No, being overreached by self-indulgence is not rare. It has happened to some of God’s servants in the ancient past, and it has happened to some in modern times. It can happen again.
“AS A SNARE”
14. How is the coming world destruction likened to a snare?
14 When Jesus spoke of Jehovah’s day of destruction coming, he said it would come “as a snare.” (Luke 21:35) A snare closes in on an unsuspecting animal when the animal walks heedlessly in the pathway of danger. So, too, this system’s end will come suddenly, when most people do not expect it. Such people could include some who have started on the “road leading off into life,” but who have allowed themselves to become absorbed in worldly pursuits, and have strayed too far in the wrong direction.—Matt. 7:14.
15. Is a less-threatening world situation proof that this system’s end must be far away?
15 Yet, would not a less-threatening world situation, or an outward appearance of prosperity in various places, give some justification for feeling that the end is not close? Actually, it could mean just the opposite. Note Jesus’ words: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” That is why Jesus also cautioned: “On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matt. 24:37-39, 44.
16. What expressions did Paul and Peter make about the suddenness of this system’s end?
16 The apostle Paul, too, noted the suddenness with which this system would come to its end, unexpected by most people. He said: “For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” (1 Thess. 5:2, 3) The apostle Peter also spoke of the fact that “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief,” unexpected by those not spiritually awake. (2 Pet. 3:10) That is why Paul counseled: “Let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—1 Thess. 5:6.
17. Why should we not feel that Jehovah has delayed his day of wrath?
17 The day of Jehovah’s wrath against wickedness will come exactly as he has scheduled it. It will not be delayed an instant. Therefore, no person who loves Jehovah should ever get into a frame of mind or into a pattern of life that suggests disbelief in Jehovah’s purpose to rid this earth of wickedness and establish a righteous new order. If one were to adopt such a negative attitude, he would be much like those described in 2 Peter 3:3, 4, which says: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”
18. (a) What evidence is there that our day is indeed very different from “creation’s beginning”? (b) Why should our main efforts be directed toward doing Jehovah’s will?
18 True, the original processes of life have gone on till now. However, in this century, all the evidence of the “last days” is on us in full measure. Most of the greatest calamities in history have been concentrated in this century. And now man has the capability of destroying all life on this earth. Surely, all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that this world is moving relentlessly toward its end. And when that comes, it will mean a period of unparalleled trouble for mankind. Jesus called it “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) During that period all this world’s political, economic and false religious systems will be demolished. Thus, all the time, effort and expense that went into sustaining those systems will have come to nothing. Surely Christians will not want to direct their main efforts toward those things that will not last. Their main loyalty and sacrifices should be directed to that which is eternal. “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
19. During the “great tribulation,” what need will there be for sacrifices, and who are more likely to make them?
19 During the coming “great tribulation” there will undoubtedly be much occasion for Jehovah’s servants to demonstrate the spirit of self-sacrifice. They will need to help fellow Christians in many ways, including sharing with them material necessities. (Heb. 13:16) Because of the great upheavals that will then take place in the political, social and economic systems, God’s servants may even lose some, or all, of their possessions. Hence, those who at this time put Jehovah’s interests first in their lives, and who already have the spirit of self-sacrifice, will likely find it easier to make the sacrifices needed then.
20. Just how serious is the matter of self-sacrifice?
20 We cannot escape the fact that the question, “Are you self-indulgent—or self-sacrificing?” is a life or death matter when viewed from Jehovah’s standpoint. If we love life, and want to live the perfect life in God’s new order, then we need the spirit of self-sacrifice to serve Jehovah acceptably now.