Ellen White returns to themes of compassion, service and self-sacrifice in chapter 64 of The Desire of Ages, “A Doomed People.” She reveals what Jesus had hoped to see in the people of Israel: “Every opportunity and privilege had been granted them, and in return He sought their sympathy and co-operation in His work of grace. He longed to see in them self-sacrifice and compassion, zeal for God, and a deep yearning of soul for the salvation of their fellow men” (p. 583).
White notes two features that blocked this compassionate spirit. “Had they kept the law of God, they would have done the same unselfish work that Christ did. But love to God and man was eclipsed by pride and self-sufficiency” (p. 583).
Commenting on the fig tree that withered under Jesus’ rebuke, she emphasizes the lesson of selfishness versus a life of compassion and service.
No one can live the law of God without ministering to others. But there are many who do not live out Christ’s merciful, unselfish life. Some who think themselves excellent Christians do not understand what constitutes service for God. They plan and study to please themselves. They act only in reference to self. Time is of value to them only as they can gather for themselves. In all the affairs of life this is their object. Not for others but for themselves do they minister. God created them to live in a world where unselfish service must be performed. He designed them to help their fellow men in every possible way. But self is so large that they cannot see anything else. They are not in touch with humanity. Those who thus live for self are like the fig tree, which made every pretension but was fruitless. They observe the forms of worship, but without repentance or faith. In profession they honor the law of God, but obedience is lacking. They say, but do not. In the sentence pronounced on the fig tree Christ demonstrates how hateful in His eyes is this vain pretense. He declares that the open sinner is less guilty than is he who professes to serve God, but who bears no fruit to His glory. (p. 584)
- In what areas of your life do you feel the Spirit of God calling you to be more compassionate and self-sacrificing?
- Self-sufficiency is held by many in the U.S. as a value above nearly all others. Why do you think Ellen White counters this, coupling it with pride as a force for destruction? In what sense is interdependence rather than independence a value in the Kingdom of God?
- How “in touch with humanity” do you feel today?
- What attitudes or actions lead to a deepening of this connection?
- When have you felt most in touch with humanity? Did you recognize this as a deeply spiritual experience at the time?