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How To Abandon Selfishness without Abandoning Yourself

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You and I suffer from a malady common to everyone. It’s the number one reason we hurt each another. It’s why children grab, pull, and scream. And, ironically, it’s often why we hurt ourselves. Selfishness.

3 Surprising Solutions for Your Selfishness

(Photo courtesy of

In Jesus’ day, people wore sandals, and the dusty roads produced dirty feet. When they entered a house, a servant customarily washed their filthy feet—a task akin to scrubbing toilets. When Jesus and His disciples came to the Upper Room, they came to the large upstairs room of a furnished home.

But when they arrived, no house servant washed their feet. I think Jesus arranged it that way.

Here’s why.

Upstairs but Downstairs

Jesus had told Peter and John to follow a man carrying water who would lead them to a  house where they would request of the owner a guest room where Jesus could eat the Passover (Mark 14:13-16; Luke 22:10-12).

Who showed them the way to the Upper Room? A servant with water.

But when the disciples arrived with Jesus at the home, the servant with water wasn’t there to scrub their soles. In other words, it wasn’t that the house had no servant.

3 Surprising Solutions for Your Selfishness

(Painting: “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet,” by Ford Madox Brown, 1852-6. Public domain)

Great Men with Dirty Feet

So why didn’t one of the disciples volunteer for this menial task? It was that age-old malady again—selfishness. The disciples had been arguing which of them was considered “the greatest” (Luke 22:24).

What a sight! A room of “great” men—all with dirty feet. Ironically, in guarding their greatness they revealed instead their own insecurity.

All except Jesus.

The Solution to Selfishness

Ironically, the greatest Person in the room took up the basin and towel to serve. The Apostle John tells us why:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:3-5)

How could Jesus, unarguably the greatest in the room, stoop to do such lowly work? These verses reveal 3 reasons:

  1. He was secure in who He was.
  2. He was secure in His relationship with the Father from eternity.
  3. He was secure in where He was going.

The source of Jesus’ strength to serve came from His inner assurance and security. It’s the solution to selfishness.

The Upper Room

(Photo: The Upper Room. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We Live in the Upper Room

The disciples’ mistake is often ours.

When we face an unpleasant task, we come to the Lord bemoaning He do something about it. We expect Jesus to call a janitor, when it’s possible He’s made us aware of the need in order to reveal our selfishness.

We can serve others for the same 3 reasons that Jesus did:

  1. We are secure in who we are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
  2. We are secure in our relationship with the Father from eternity (Revelation 13:8; 1 John 2:23).
  3. We are secure in where we are going (Colossians 1:5).

With this kind of security, we can abandon selfishness and serve others with no loss of dignity.

Jesus defines it as greatness.

Tell me what you think: Do you know someone for whom a lack of selfishness makes them great? To leave a comment, just click here.

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