The episode leading into the story of the Good Samaritan (see today's Dig Deeper) begins with a question of self-interest. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" the religious teacher asked. Jesus's response included the admonition for us to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves. Your motivation for loving others, according to Jesus, should reflect the same kind of interest and concern that you have for yourself. But don't forget the reward, which was the point of the exchange—eternal life. In Jesus's view that means a better life beginning here and now. And that means your own path to a more fulfilling life runs squarely into the land of helping others.
I am not suggesting that we help others in order to help ourselves; that would be self-serving, not others-serving. But it has been my experience that people who help others find themselves benefited in many ways. The payoff may not match their gift in kind (they may give money but receive emotional reward), but it always exceeds their contribution in the sense of satisfaction that it brings.
The paradoxical truth is that the quickest way to self-improvement might just be to improve someone else's life. And as we improve ourselves more, we actually are better able to help others.
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