Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
By showing selflessness and putting others first, you are fulfilling one of the greatest commands from God.
In this post, we explore some of the best verses in the Bible about putting others first.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does Putting Others First Mean?
It may seem like a simple enough phrase, but it’s easy to misunderstand it.
Putting others first doesn’t mean completely neglecting your own needs over those of others. It also doesn’t mean that you blindly serve others regardless of who they are and their actions.
Putting others first is about being concerned with the needs of others more than your own with good intentions.
The intentions part is very important.
If your selflessness is an effort to make yourself look good in other people’s eyes, that’s not putting others first.
If you help others with the intention of getting something in return, that’s not putting others first.
Putting others first requires sacrifice. You may need to sacrifice some of your money, time or comfort to help someone in need.
It doesn’t mean you have to go poor or exhaust yourself helping others. Remember you can’t pour anything out of an empty cup.
The beauty with selflessness is that God will always refill your cup. As you give to others, you’ll never lack for yourself.
Examples of Selflessness In The Bible
I can think of three people in the Bible who showed extreme selflessness and put others first with great sacrifice.
These are Jesus, Esther, and the apostles.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus is the ultimate example of putting others first. He sacrificed his life to save us from sin. From his crucifixion, death and resurrection, we got eternal salvation.
Many of the apostles followed in the footsteps of Jesus by sacrificing their life to spread the gospel.
They were not only tortured and imprisoned for their preaching and teaching, many of them met violent ends and died as martyrs.
Paul was likely beheaded, Peter was crucified upside down, Thomas was likely killed with a spear, and James, the brother of John, was executed with a sword by King Herod.
Beyond these, there are many more martyrs throughout the history of the Church who have given up their life to spread the gospel.
That’s an incredibly selfless act especially considering they put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of unbelievers.
That’s an important lesson in putting first even those we don’t think are deserving of it.
Esther 4:16 “…Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Mordecai asked Esther to go to the King and plead on behalf of the Jewish people to prevent their destruction by Haman.
There was a law that anyone who appeared before the king without being summoned would be put to death.
At first, Esther refused to go to the king, citing that law. But after Mordecai, her guardian, reminds her that she will not be safe even in the palace, she decides to risk her life.
The king accepts her presence and she manages to convince him. But that was a great risk she took. She decided to put her people first and risk her life.
Bible Verses About Putting Others First
Now let’s look at some of the Bible verses that talk about selflessness and putting others first.
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This first section of Philippians 2 focuses on Christ’s humility and how we should emulate it. To be able to put others first, we have to humble ourselves and not consider ourselves higher or more important than others.
In verse 8, Paul says: …And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Matthew 22:39 …And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is loving God with all your heart. The second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
The ultimate expression of love is selflessness. If you truly love someone, you’ll always put them before you.
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
This verse, and the entire chapter, is one of the best descriptions of selfless love in the Bible. Without love for God and for others, we are nothing and all we do is for nothing.
For even if you do something but it’s not out of love, then you are doing it with the wrong intentions and that’s wrong.
Romans 15:1-2 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
1 Corinthians 10:24, 31-33 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor….So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
These verses are a reminder to always keep others in mind in our actions and words. We should care about other people’s conscience and avoid offending them, whether they are believers or not.
For instance, it’s not a sin to have tattoos or piercings. But if you are in a position where people’s conscience or faith may be shaken by your actions (e.g. a church leader), then you have to put others first.
1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Whatever blessings, gifts and talents that God has granted you, use them to help and serve other people. That’s the best gratitude you can give to God for what he has given you.
How To Put Others First According To The Bible
After reading all these verses, you may be wondering how exactly you can put others first.
There are some obvious ways I can think about like giving away your money, offering your time to help others, using your skills for charity and so on.
But putting others first is not just in these isolated acts of charity. Rather, it’s a lifestyle that we should practice all the time.
That means that we put whoever is around us first. In most cases, it’s not money or material things that show your selflessness.
Rather, it’s how you treat people. Jesus and the apostles in their letters repeatedly encourage us to earnestly love others.
We should emulate the pure love that God has for us to love other people. That means loving everyone no matter how they look, their work or their station in life.
When you genuinely love people, you’ll find yourself automatically putting them first. You won’t have to think hard on how you can show love to people.
Each interaction with someone becomes an opportunity to show love to them whether it’s by helping someone carry a bag of groceries, encouraging someone, or being kind to service workers.
Constantly practice selflessness at home with your family, at work with your colleagues, in church with your brethren, out on the streets with strangers and wherever you are.
One of the best ways to put others first even when they are far from you is through prayers. When you put others first, you’ll find yourself putting other people’s prayer needs ahead of your own.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.