Fifty-four years ago in January of 1961, John F. Kennedy jarred our nation with a call for a different motivation. In his inaugural address he issued this challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
Our natural motivational instinct is selfish not sacrificial. We come into the world as the center of our universe, wanting what we want, when we want it and caring little about how our desires affect the lives of others.
What motivates most of your choices and mine? By and large we treasure our independence and hold tenaciously to our “unalienable rights” to “(our) life, (our) liberty and the pursuit of (our) happiness.” It is the American way set forth in our Declaration of Independence.
The very folks, however, who issued the words above, our Founding Fathers, proved by their example their unselfish devotion to community. They declared, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Through costly personal sacrifice, they delivered on their pledge.
Long before Kennedy’s call for self-sacrifice, Jesus came and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Denying self is definitely a different motivation.
Jesus called for and lived a life-style that puts pleasing God and serving others above personal privilege.
This is not the natural way to approach life. It takes a renewed mind and a transformed life to get there. The Apostle Paul explains: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God . . . Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Rom. 12:1-2).
In the midst of a selfish, rights happy environment, Christians are called to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 12:2).
When life is lived with a different motivation, it brings a different result. True happiness seems always to elude the selfish and self-centered. Living for God and others is the road to joy.