AM I SELFISH?
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we read, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” We have here one of the many lists of sinful conduct recorded in the New Testament. Other passages that give similar lists would include: Romans 1:28-32, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:31, 5:3-5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Colossians 3:5-7, Revelation 21:8, etc. I invite you to read each of these passages and answer this: What does each of the sins listed have in common? The answer is selfishness.
As I examine scripture, I firmly believe that every sin one commits involves selfishness to some degree. Think about it. The Greek word translated sin literally means “a missing of the mark” (Vine’s) similar to an archer that misses the bulls-eye or the target he is aiming for. In scripture the idea of sin is that one transgresses the law of God by either doing what He forbids or refusing to do what He commands, or acting in doubt. He misses the mark God has set concerning a particular behavior. In each of these ways, when you or I sin we are thinking more about ourselves (i.e. what you or I WANT to do) instead of what God wants us to do. Therefore, sin is an act of selfishness. Again, look at each item in the above lists and ask: Can this act be done without some degree of selfishness on my part?
Now to answer the question of our title: Am I selfish? Since we all sin, there is some degree of selfishness in all of us. But those striving to be pleasing to God realize their condition and continually seek to change for the better. They will sacrifice personal ambitions for the better good and with time they will become less and less selfish. In other words, they will sin less and less.
However, for others, selfishness is a way of life and it governs them away from God more often than toward Him. This one is self-seeking in his ambitions. There are some people who think far more of themselves than they do about others. They are known or have a reputation of being selfish and have no intention of changing. In the Bible we read of Judas Iscariot. He was selfish in this later way. Recall how for 30 pieces of silver he was willing to sell out the Lord Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16). Judas was known as a thief and one who didn’t care about the poor (John 12:4-6). Luke 12:13-21 describes the parable of the rich fool. He was a successful farmer who thought only about himself. One of the problems Jesus frequently addressed among the Pharisees & scribes was their selfish attitudes. Their actions were often designed to attract attention to themselves, or they did things of benefit to them with little regard for others. Read the scathing rebuke of Jesus in Matthew 23 for examples of this. We know that such an attitude is totally contrary to the ways of a Christian and “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21) May we NEVER reach this point in our lives where our selfishness consumes us. I do not say this to minimize other forms of selfishness, but to note that as long as we are consumed with self-will and selfish conduct, we will NEVER seek to truly please God. What little we do will simply be a façade.
Having said this, I would now like to address those of us who truly do want to be right with God. We know that selfishness is sinful conduct and openly condemn such an attitude. BUT, is selfishness a little closer than we care to admit? What are some ways that we might demonstrate selfishness?
By doing something for
others only because there is something in it for me. There are many
who are willing to do good things, provided they get something out of
it. They might loan
something to another, but they expect it back with interest.
They give, but only because there is some material benefit to
doing so, perhaps recognition.
Jesus told His disciples in Luke 6:32-36 to love their enemies and when they gave to do so for those who could not repay you. God notices such. Concerning charitable giving He said to do it privately (Matt. 6:1-4). Matt. 5:38-42 says to go the second mile and give more than asked. May we as Christians TRULY live for others. In so doing we can overcome selfishness.
2) By exaggerating the truth to get out of consequences OR to minimize them. Christians are to be totally honest in their conversation. To my knowledge the Bible doesn’t describe degrees of truth. It is either true or it is not. Yet how many, in their conversations will “massage” a conversation for their benefit. The Bible DOES give examples of this and it is NOT good! 2 Pet. 3:16 speaks of those who twist the scriptures to their own destruction. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Considering Rev. 21:8 we learn that no lie is acceptable to God. And there are many forms of lies. Do we ever find ourselves leaving out the incriminating details in our “confession”? Do we tell “half-truths”? Do we make excuses for our conduct that are less than total disclosure? Let us seek to be totally truthful in all that we say. Anything less has shades of selfishness in it.
3) By not giving as much as we should give. Christians are commanded to give in many different ways. There is charitable deeds for others (cf. Matt. 6:1-5, Gal. 6:10, Jas. 1:27, etc.). But there is also giving to support the Lords work (1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 9:6-8, etc.). When we give to others or in our contribution, are we truly giving Him in abundance, cheerfully and as we have prospered? Or is our giving a little less? Perhaps we are not willing to let go of ALL our possessions for Him. Was that not the problem with the rich, young ruler in Matt. 19:16-22? It has been observed that if the Lord would have asked for a portion, he would probably have gladly given that, but Jesus demanded ALL – because money was an idol to him. Is our giving to God truly sacrificial (like the poor widow – Luke 21:1-4, like the Macedonian in 2 Cor. 8:1-5). Consider also Ananias and Saphira who sold land and conspired to lie to God and the brethren about how much they received (Ac. 5:1-11). When we examine our giving, do we find a little selfishness there?
4) By not facing up to circumstances in our lives? As sad as it is, there are some who will avoid certain subjects in scripture because of fear that they might have to change. They wander about with ignorance as a crutch, sometimes willfully. Or they refuse to honestly examine where they are at. Many of them will blame others for their circumstances. Jesus condemned many of the Jewish leaders for their corruption. He called them “blind guides” (Matt. 23:16, 24) and spoke of them closing their eyes and stopping their ears lest they understand and perceive (Matt. 13:10-15, cf. Isaiah 6:9-10). When Stephen condemned the Jewish leaders, rather than consider what he said they “cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord.” (Acts 7:57) They didn’t want to hear the truth and sought to destroy the one who revealed it to them. While what we do may not be that extreme, is this nor actually a form of selfishness?
5) By not sharing the gospel with others. We have been blessed with the gospel. We have heard the truth and obeyed (have you?) and now we have a hope of salvation. With the greatest of blessings and purpose in this life, will we keep it for ourselves or will we share it with others? The gospel was designed to be shared. Continually we are called upon to look for opportunities to teach others. God demands that we put our light on a lampstand so that others can see it and glorify Him (Matt. 5:14-16). In 2 Cor. 5:10-11Paul was reminded that we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ and answer for our lives. Then in vs. 11 he says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Peter challenges us to “give a defense for the hope that is in us.” (1 Pet. 3:15) Someone once said, “Untold millions are dying without the gospel untold”. When we hide our light and fail to open our mouths, are we not being selfish with the greatest of gifts?
So how do we deal with selfishness? The simple answer is found in Matt. 6:33. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Simply stated, you need to think about God and others and ACT LIKE IT with your all. Will you? Think about it.