My three-year-old son was playing an educational game on the computer when his six-year-old sister demanded that he let her have a turn. His response was typical.

“I was here first!”

I don’t know where my son picked that up, but it got me thinking. It’s a generally accepted principle of human society that those who “get there first” have more rights than those who get there after them. The first one to set foot on virgin land is entitled to take possession of it. The first one to find a pearl in the sea, or strike gold or oil may claim it as his own. The first one to make a scientific discovery or invention may patent his find and claim any profits that may result. The first one to settle in on a particular spot on the beach becomes the owner of that spot for the day.

In my children’s case, if one of them has been playing for half an hour at the computer, I tell him or her that it’s time to let the other one have a turn. Most other parents probably do something similar. But if we applied that principle to every aspect of society, there would be absolute chaos. Can you imagine a landowner saying, “I’ve had this plot of land for quite a while, so it’s time to let someone else enjoy it”? Or can you imagine a man who has a good job giving it to someone else who is out of work and short of money?

Those examples are rather extreme, but what about little acts of selflessness? How often do you see people who have a seat on the bus or subway offering it to someone who has just boarded, simply because they look like they’d appreciate a chance to rest their weary feet? Are little sacrifices like that too much to expect?—Or do we fail to make them simply because we don’t see anyone else making them and no one really expects us to do so either?

It’s a matter of selfishness, when you get right down to it, and selfishness is part of sinful human nature. But the love of Jesus can help us break out of that mold. “Give, and it will be given to you,” He taught, “for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”1 Those are certainly extraordinary concepts in this day and age. How we cling to our rights! But this giving, selfless kind of love is actually what God wanted for us all from the beginning—and His love can help us achieve it. If we would practice this kind of love, the world would be a different place.

  1. Luke 6:38