"Look not every man on his own thing, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2.4)
INTRO.: A hymn which exhorts us not to think only about ourselves but about the needs of our fellow human beings is "Others" (#92 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Charles D. Meigs. It was copyrighted in 1907. For years I have been trying to find information about Mr. Meigs and the song, but after exhausting the resources of the Dayton-Montgomery County Public Library and doing an extensive Internet search, all I know is what I read in one old hymnbook. "January 1, 1908, General Ballington Booth dispatched this one word ‘Others’ to all the Salvation Army Posts of the world. Mr. Meigs, catching the spirit of the message, couched it in this well-known poem." Unfortunately, this not does not even agree with the copyright date! I cannot give much information about Mr. Meigs, but I can give a little about Ballington Booth (1857-1940). He was the second son of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. Ballington and his wife were sent from England to oversee the operations of the Salvation Army in the United States, but he later broke with his father and established his own organization, the Volunteers of America. He produced the gospel song, "The Cross Is Not Greater than His Grace."
The tune most commonly used in our books with "Others" was composed by Elizabeth McE. Shields. It was copyrighted in 1917. I have also tried to find information about the composer, with no success either. The copyright holder, Presbyterian Committee of Publication, was taken over by John Knox Press, to which I wrote and found out that it was merged with Westminster Press. No one currently at Westminster-John Knox Press could tell me anything about Elizabeth Shields or the hymn. It was apparently a very popular song back in the early days of the 20th century. I have seen it in the 1926 Premier Hymns edited by R. E. Magill and published by The Onward Press of Richmond, VA; the 1938 Cokesbury Worship Hymnal; and the 1940 Broadman Hymnal edited by B. B. McKinney and published by Broadman Press, a Baptist publishing company in Nashville, TN. No one at Abingdon-Cokesbury or Broadman could give me any information as well.
The same text appears in some other books with a tune by William E. M. Hackleman (1868-1927). Hackleman was a hymnwriter and music publisher associated with churches of Christ and Christian churches in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This version appeared in Wonder Hymns of Faith published by the Standard Publishing Company of Cincinnati, OH (I do not have a date for it); the 1940 edition of the Hymnal–Church of the Brethren (copyright 1925), published by the Brethren Publishing House of Elgin, IL; and the 1992 Pilgrim’s Praises edited by Steven S. Rodabaugh and published by Ambassador Publishers of Altamont, TN, a Mennonite publishing company. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the only one in which I have seen the song is the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum, which uses the Shields tune, besides Hymns for Worship.
The song helps us to see the need of thinking about people besides only ourselves.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes thinking of others in our daily lives
"Lord, help me live from day to day In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray My prayer shall be for–Others."
A. We need the Lord’s help to live from day to day, and He has promised that we can come boldly to His throne to find grace to help in time of need: Heb. 4.16
B. We especially need His help to live in a self-forgetful way, because we must learn not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think: Rom. 12.3
C. Therefore, even in our prayers, we should remember others: Eph. 6.18-19
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes thinking of others in our work
"Help me in all the work I do To ever be sincere and true
And know that all I’d do for you Must needs be done for–Others."
A. The Lord certainly has a work for His people to do: Eph. 2.10
B. And in doing this work, we must be sincere and true: Phil. 1.10-11
C. But we also need to know that much of our work for the Lord involves doing things for others: Matt. 25.31-46
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes thinking of others in our inner-most selves
"Let ‘Self’ be crucified and slain And buried deep: and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again, Unless to live for–Others."
A. To serve Christ we must crucify ourselves: Gal. 2.20, 6.14
B. If we truly seek to take up our cross and follow Jesus, then all efforts to resurrect self will be in vain: Matt. 16.24
C. So, rather than devoting all of our thoughts and efforts toward self, we will strive to meet the needs of others: Matt. 20.25-28
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes thinking of others in eternity
"And when my work on earth is done And my new work in heaven’s begun,
May I forget the crown I’ve won, While thinking still of–Others."
A. Someday our work on earth will be done because it is appointed for people to die: Heb. 9.27
B. Then, after the Lord returns, we shall have a new work in heaven; exactly what the work will be is not told, but the Bible says that in the eternal city, "His servants shall serve Him": Rev. 22.1-3
C. Yet, even as we wear that crown that we shall have won, we shall not be characterized by a sense of pride in ourselves but shall undoubtedly think of others: Rev. 2.10
CONCL.: The last stanza might be thought of in connection with the concern that the departed spirits have for the lost on earth as they await the judgment (cf. Lk. 16.27-28). However, even in eternity, we would not think of heaven as a place of selfishness but a place where we would be "in honor giving preference to one another" even more perfectly that we are able to do here. The chorus continues the admonition of the stanzas:
"Others, Lord, yes, others, Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others, That I may live like Thee."
Yes, we all have personal needs to attend to, both physically and spiritually. But we must be careful never to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we fail to give proper consideration to "Others."