Earlier this summer the world was mesmerized by the drama which unfolded in Thailand as twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were rescued from entrapment in the Tham Luang cave. Whereas volunteers came from around the globe to offer their assistance, some of the least noticed help came from farmers in that region.
Rescuers needed to stabilize the cave’s floodwaters. This was accomplished by pulling out more than 400,000 gallons of water per hour. Doing so flooded the surrounding lands, causing over 125 farmers to lose their annual crops. Faced with the prospects of such loss, collectively the farmers said, “Let the water flood our farms.” One farmer, Lek Lapdaungpoin, said of the sacrifice, “With the farming, we can make money again. But 13 lives are not something we can create.”1
As I read that account, I could not help but marvel at those farmers’ sacrifice—especially realizing they had no assurance that their sacrifice would end up in a successful rescue. Though some might stop short of calling their sacrifice heroic—especially when compared to the sacrifice of his life by Thai Navy SEAL team member Saman Kunan—no matter how one cuts it, the sacrifice by the farmers was notable.
Why do we marvel at what these farmers did? Is it because sacrifice in our culture is a dying art?
As we increasingly become more and more a culture of entitlement, more and more a culture of discontented souls, more and more a culture of selfishness as opposed to selflessness, are we more and more losing our ability to give up something special to us so as to benefit another person? Is the fact that sacrifice is so rare among us the reason we find ourselves marveling at it when we come face to face with it?
What does it take to be a person willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others?
- We must value life over possessions.
In the case of the Thai farmers, this is the core value which was at work which led them to that kind of sacrifice. Sadly, that core value is missing more and more in our culture. The loss of respect for the value of life on the front end of life, the back end of life, and life lived in between has been fueled by an ever-increasing value attached to possessions in our culture.
- We must possess a humility which values others more than self.
Pride, which devalues others in order to elevate self, will either stop sacrifice in its tracks, or will masquerade as sacrifice what is actually quid pro quo.
- We must value service over being served.
One of the foundational components of a spirit of sacrifice is a spirit of service. Desire or demand to be served and a spirit of sacrifice will fall by the wayside.
- We must value giving over grasping.
Discontentment feeds grasping and accumulation. Contentment feeds giving. Giving feeds sacrifice.
The sacrificial life I’ve described is the life which is taught in the Bible. For example, Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
How can we pull off such a life as that? The best way is to model the life which Jesus lived while He was on earth. Philippians 2:5-8 says of Him, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Now that’s a form of sacrifice that really is a dying art.
1 “StraitsTimes.com/Asia 7/5/18; Express.co.uk, 7/7/18; WashingtonPost.com, 7/13/18)