It was Christmas morning. The whole family was together, even though most of the children were married and starting their own families. We were about to open presents.
There was only one thing on my wish list: a sharp chef’s knife. I wanted something that could slice through a tomato without squeezing out a single drop of its juices—a really good knife.
I unwrapped a few trifles and gift cards. But eventually I got to the box that I believed would contain what my heart desired. I carefully unwrapped the gift. I didn’t want to seem too eager. But my heart sank when I saw the box.
It was from Compassion International—an organization that helps impoverished children in developing nations. Oh great. My parents sponsored a starving African child in my name instead of buying me a real Christmas present.
I was so disappointed. But I prepared myself to feign genuine appreciation for the gift. I opened the box—ready to see what child they sponsored—only to realize that it was merely a container for the knife I wanted. It turns out that they hadn’t sponsored a child in my name. They just happened to have that box sitting around the house, and they used it make my gift easier to wrap.
You’d think I would have been happy, because I got what my heart so desired. But my internal dialogue shined a spotlight on an ugly truth about myself: I am desperately selfish. It wasn’t a fun realization.
I sat there through the rest of the festivities, disgusted with the revelation of my depravity. I thought I was a good guy. I thought I was generous. But in reality, my heart was thoroughly selfish.
As the gift exchange came to an end, I made a decision. I wouldn’t let selfishness rule in my heart anymore.
I went straight home. I opened my laptop. I Googled Compassion International, and I chose a child to sponsor. I had to uproot the weeds of selfishness in my life.
Since then, I’ve come to care about Dusabimana, my sponsored child from Rwanda. She recently learned how to read and write. I now receive letters in her penmanship which is, to my embarrassment, better than mine. Her recent letter suggested I read Proverbs 3:5-6. I love getting to see glimpses into her world and having her encourage me. I never thought that would be the result of something like this.
To be honest, I didn’t really care about her at the start. I sponsored her because I felt I needed to do something about my heart attitude. I couldn’t afford to have those attitudes inside me.
Jesus told us that your heart follows your treasure (Matthew 6:21). If I want my heart to be generous, I have to use my treasure generously. And even if I don’t feel generous when I part ways with that $38 per month, I know that my heart will eventually follow. And I’m happy to report that it has.
I’ve made decisions like these multiple times throughout my life. Whenever I sense an area of selfishness in my heart, I immediately pull out my chequebook. I don’t really care where the money goes. That isn’t the point. The point is that my heart needs to give.
I haven’t completely eradicated my selfish nature. Perhaps I never will while here on earth. But when I compare my heart now to my heart back then, I know I’ve made huge strides. My heart grows softer as the seeds I plant grow larger. I’m continuing to uproot the weeds of selfishness in my heart, and I’m seeing good things sprout up in its place.
This article was originally published here. This version has been edited by YMI.