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Foundations are important, whether we’re building a house or a life. If the foundation is right, it is much easier for the structure on top of the foundation to be what it needs to be, but if the foundation is designed poorly, everything built upon it will be in danger. Spiritually speaking, the foundation of our lives is made up of whatever principles and ideas we adopt as the basis of our actions. Even with the best of principles, of course, we may not always act consistently with those principles. But if our principles are not correct to start with, it will be virtually impossible for us to have a quality life. Our lives will be built on a shaky foundation.
One of the most basic decisions anybody ever has to make is whether to live on the principle of selfishness or the principle of unselfishness. Depending on where we come down on this question, our lives will be greatly affected for better or worse. At some point, everybody has to decide what life is about in its most basic sense. If we reach the conclusion that life is basically about serving others, one kind of life will result. If, on the other hand, we decide that life is about being served by others, a radically different life will be the outcome. In choosing whether our orientation will be “inward” or “outward,” we determine great consequences in our lives.
The Bible takes a clear position on this issue. It teaches that love is of the very essence of God’s own nature and that because we are made in His image, we can never fully enjoy our intended measure of happiness in this world unless we live, as His Son did long ago, on the basis of unselfish love. Jesus said it quite simply: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Ac. 20:35). This week, let’s consider whether we really believe that or not.
As we live from day to day, much depends on where our “center” is. When “self” is at the center, we reap an unhappy harvest in many ways. And there is nothing any closer to the heart of what sin is all about than self-will. Self-will says, “I won’t let God’s way stand between me and what I want. I will do my own will.” And an unhappy life is the usual result. But the foundation of genuine, unselfish love, first for God and then for others, is the basis of real life. Life works as it should only when we repent of the sin of selfishness. That is a truth well worth pondering.
Monday: Genesis 3:1–7
Key Idea: Substituting self-will for God’s will is the basic attitude that results in sinful behavior.
Questions for Family Growth: In what ways did Satan have to change Eve’s attitude toward God’s will before he could get her to eat the forbidden fruit? What is the basic deception that we warned against in Gal. 6:7–10?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 22:15.
Tuesday: Romans 1:18–25
Key Idea: When we are self-centered, our religion toward God turns into idolatry.
Questions for Family Growth: What is idolatry? What description of mankind is given in this passage? Have we ourselves ever “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator”? In what ways might we be guilty of doing this?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 22:16.
Wednesday: Acts 20:35
Key Idea: When we are self-centered, our relationships with other people are damaged.
Questions for Family Growth: What is meant by the statement that it is more “blessed to give than to receive”? What does “blessed” mean? How is this principle the key to all relationships between human beings? What is the teaching of 1 Jn. 4:7–12?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 22:17–21.
Thursday: Matthew 20:25–28
Key Idea: When we are self-centered, we destroy the foundation of basic respect for ourselves.
Questions for Family Growth: What is the good life primarily about: serving or being served? Can we have any real self-respect if we’re living in violation of life’s basic principle? Do you think this is a clue to why so many people are unhappy with themselves?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 22:22,23.
Friday: Philippians 2:1–8
Key Idea: If we wish to follow Jesus’ example, we must be motivated by love and not selfishness.
Questions for Family Growth: What qualities of character are mentioned in vv.1–4? In vv.5–8, what is the “mind” that must be in us? In Jn. 13:14,15, what did Jesus say His disciples should do? What did He say in Jn. 13:34,35?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 22:24,25.