For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.…
to self: — The first question which arises as we meet these words is as to their scope and sweep. Must we not begin by putting them under limitations? Is it true? Are there not multitudes of persons who are living to themselves? We ought not to limit any truth until we find it impossible to do otherwise. Truth as it comes from the lips of a man specially endowed to speak it is always likely to be greater than our comprehension of it. First of all, we know, as a matter of fact, that no man is simply an individual. An individual life would have to start as it was said of the life of Melchisedek, without father and without mother. We all of us are related. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, the fact remains. We need not concern ourselves, however, about remote ancestries. Those immediately back of us have influenced us more or less. We see family likenesses extending not alone to facial expression, but family likenesses extending to character. If you find a proud and obstinate mother you are pretty sure in a family to find also a proud and obstinate son; if you find a weak and indolent father you will not be surprised if somewhere in the family you find a still weaker and more indolent daughter. Our relationships count for something. They are not mere matters of arrangement; or of convenience. Soul, as well as body, descends. And yet every man has something which individualises him. There is a spark as it were of spiritual life in every one of us, as there is a spark of electricity in every drop of water and in every grain of sand. Electricity in matter seems in a certain way, and remotely, to represent spirituality in mind. Very well, then, take only these two facts — the fact of relationship to others making our life a continuation of their life, and the fact of each of us having a distinct personality — and how mysterious it is! And yet nobody can deny the facts. Now this relation to others from whom we cannot free ourselves shows that the good in us and the evil in us are not entirely our own, and that no man can be judged simply as an individual. It is not our own till we adopt it as our own. Related all round as we are, then, does it not become clearer and clearer that the apostle simply indicates a universal law of life when he says, "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself"? It is manifestly impossible that any man should live to himself in unrelated and uninfluential independence of others. Every man is related all round. Is it not clear that no good man lives to himself? The very idea of goodness implies unselfishness, kindness, sympathy. When a man intelligently and voluntarily co-operates with God, "lives unto the Lord," as St. Paul phrases it, then we all agree that he is not living to himself. And yet if we look into the matter sufficiently close we shall find that there is a sense in which a man is never so much living to himself or for his own interests as when he is voluntarily living to God. The laws of the universe are such that benevolence ultimately hangs up by the neck the man whose penuriousness has blinded his eyes to the fact that he has been occupying himself all his life, like Haman of old, in gallows-building. For living to himself, mark you, is an impossible task. In some degree or other every man is multiplying himself, his character does not remain at home, but it travels abroad. Is there not great comfort in the fact that no man can be good without doing good? We used to be taught in the days gone by that we must not think of ourselves, but we must be good and unselfish. Did we not feel at the time that there was something impossible and unnatural in that advice? Self is here with us, we cannot rid ourselves of it. The consciousness of self I cannot escape.
(Rouen Thomas, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.