There is a very wonderful true-life story, which happened during World War II in the ill-famed German concentration camp, Auschwitz. Every day numbers were called out, and people were led to the extermination area. If your number was called today, you were going to be shot and buried en masse.
There was a man whose number was called and he was terrified. There was a Christian missionary, young and healthy, next to him, whose number was not called. Seeing the man’s fear he said, ‘Don’t fear. I will take your place.’ The man felt ashamed, but at the same time could not refuse the offer. He wanted to live. The missionary was shot.
After the war, our man was freed. For many years he lived with this sense of defeat and shame and later narrated this incident in his life. He saw that there was simply no point, because his life itself was somebody else’s charity. It was because of another man’s greatness that he was living. Otherwise, he would have been shot that day – it was his number.
The missionary, who did not know him – he was not a friend, a father, a son or anything – just to ease his fear and suffering, he took the call. That man, not the man who stayed back, will know what life is. Only he can experience a certain strength, a certain power within himself that somebody who is trying to protect himself will never experience.
This does not mean you have to go sacrifice yourself. The man who went to his death was not thinking in terms of sacrifice. At that moment, he saw what was needed and just did it without a second thought. That is fantastic; but if you are trying to sacrifice yourself because you are going to get strength, or you are going to go to heaven, that is not it.
If you can run your life without the offer of heaven, you are on the path. If such a situation comes in your life, if such a level of maturity comes to you that you do not need any deals and you can still do it, it is good. If you have grown out of this limitation that something has to be offered for you to do something, where no increments are needed and you still are willing to work overtime, then you have a different kind of strength.
The man who does only as much as is needed will only get that much. He will always remain a beggar in his life. He will never know what strength really is, he will never know what Divinity is; he will never know what Godliness is.