What Can You Do For Others—A Focus on Giving

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

We're all familiar with the question, "What's in it for me?" It's an understandable query, but it's also very self-focused and doesn't help us be successful or stay on the Christian path.

A better sentiment to follow if we want to be successful and make a difference is found in the words former President Kennedy said at his Inaugural Address in 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

This is excellent guidance for just about any endeavor or any situation. Rather than asking what school or jobs or relationships can do for us, we can think about what we can do for school, for a job situation, for our friends or family.

What happens when we shift the focus away from getting to giving is that we open ourselves to a new way of thinking and living. We take the focus off ourselves; we're less self-conscious and less egotistical. We're able to help and celebrate others and their accomplishments. We open ourselves to the blessings God is trying to give to us, blessings we can't really receive if we're focused on "what's in it for me."

Remember the Bible story of Abram (later Abraham) and Lot (Gen 13)? For whatever reason, the land that they were living on together wasn't supporting all their livestock, and the herdsmen were arguing. So Abram – even though he was the eldest, and by right had the first pick of the land – offered Lot the first pick of land. Abram didn't think about getting the first or the best or the most. He placed all his confidence in God and gave his right of choice to Lot. So Lot chose the land that eventually got destroyed, Sodom and Gomorrah. God gave Abram everything else that his eyes could see. Pretty amazing.

Remember Joseph (Gen 37, 39-47)? He was thrown into a pit and taken to prison. When he got to Potiphar's house, he didn't even think about himself. Rather, he did the best he could for Potiphar, and Potiphar acknowledged that. The same happened when he interpreted Pharaoh's dream. He didn't interpret the dream for his own glory; Joseph knew God would give him the interpretation.

As a result, Joseph was raised to the highest position in the land next to Pharaoh. Joseph didn't seek fame and fortune. It came as a result of serving and being close to God. He was also reunited with his father and his family. That was a huge blessing for Joseph. Plus, he saved his family from starvation. He was always working for others.

As we go into the school year, let's really think about how we can be like Abram and give others the first choice. Let's be like Joseph and work to serve others. Let's stay close to God. Let's be confident in God's ability to show us how to give, serve, and support our family, friends, school, community, world. There are endless possibilities and opportunities. Best of all, giving is also about receiving – receiving a much deeper, stronger faith in God's selfless purpose for each one of us.