Last month, we established that the foundation of love is sacrifice. (If you need a refresher, just scroll down!) Being a parent is, by its very nature, a sacrificial act, and therefore, a loving act. Without sacrifice, there is no love. On the flip side, the foundation of all hate and apathy is selfishness…and selfishness is the source of all kinds of problems, and all kinds of sin.
However, in this second part of our examination of sacrifice and love, I want to consider a subtle but important consideration about sacrifice and selfishness that families, and especially parents, can easily fall into. Let’s start by examining the following passage from Matthew 5:43-48 in light of our own families:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Enemies + Sacrifice
Loving one’s enemies was…a crazy, outlandish idea in the time of Jesus. Maybe ESPECIALLY from a Jewish man, right? I mean, how many times had their lands been invaded, their people enslaved, their woman and children captured. There were a lot of hostile enemies, and they had done terrible, unspeakable things. Our enemies today…are NOTHING compared to what Jesus was actually referring to. But this is actually a heart issue at its core. Your enemy is anyone whom you have something against.
All that said, I want to focus on this idea in verse 46: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Based on our previously stated notion, I want to rephrase that for the sake of our discussion: “If you sacrifice for those who sacrifice for you, what reward will you get?”
Hmm. Here’s my point: I hope you honor your spouse and love your kids. It is your duty, honor, and stewardship to do all of those things. However, I think there is a danger and a trap lurking within the ways we love and serve our families. I call it the shift from “me-selfishness” to “we-selfishness.”
Me-Selfishness to We-Selfishness
See, if someone only works for himself to buy himself things and gain his own reputation, we all see him as selfish and it’s fairly obvious. However culturally speaking, if that same person works to “provide” for his family, buys his family lots of nice things, and improves his family’s reputation, he’s considered a hero. But should it be so? In one way, yes. To provide for your family is a good and God-honoring thing. On the other hand, what is the motivation of that man deep down?
We-Selfishness feels, well, less selfish than Me-Selfishness. But if I make sure my kids are in every activity they want to be in just so I look good…isn’t that just a thinly veiled form of selfishness? Or if I want my wife to be well-dressed so people see me as successful because of what she wears…you get the idea. The point is this: we all need to check our naturally-selfish hearts for our real motivation behind these actions. They are not always as pure-hearted as they may appear to others.
Secondly, we need to consider how our We-Selfishness is inhibiting our ability to be generous to those who really need it. “Sacrificing” so my kid can update their cell phone to the latest model, but not actually sacrificing for those who need it (or for my enemies) isn’t real sacrifice at all, is it? As the passage says, even the pagans do that. And it certainly isn’t teaching my children to point their generosity toward others instead of toward our family. And, it’s not helping point our friends and neighbors toward the gospel, which, at its core is self-sacrificial for enemies, right?
What I’m Not Saying About Sacrifice
Parenting always involves self-sacrifice (if you’re doing it right). But, it can also create this sneaky trap of We-Selfishness that Satan would love nothing more than to drag you into.
I don’t mean to create a false dichotomy here. It’s not serve your family OR others. I just think sometimes we deny how inversely connected those two things can be when it comes to generosity. Meaning, we often choose generosity toward our family – who we love and enjoy – over the truly biblical response of serving the poor, oppressed, hungry, orphans, widows, and enemies. What we must do is let one inform the other, not let one substitute for the other.
I think a great exercise would be to sit down as a family and ask this question: What is something we love that we could sacrifice that would help us be more generous to someone we know?
Because remember, without sacrifice, there can be no love. All love requires sacrifice. And Jesus tells us to love, and therefore to sacrifice, not just for those we love, but also for those who are against us or those who we do not know. That, according to Jesus, is how love and sacrifice come together.
Until the next Feast,