One of the first expressions of brokenness in a person is selfishness. You put two cute babies in a room, and you give one a toy. At some point, the other will want to play with that toy. It is not uncommon for the first child to not share the toy with the other. In fact, it is expected that there will be a problem. The irony is that both children have had their needs cared for entirely by other people. All they have experienced in life is selflessness. But out of nowhere, they practice the ugly art of being selfish. They aren’t trained to be selfish. It just comes out. And that angelic face becomes twisted as they learn to say the word, “Mine!”
So, the parent has to teach them how to act in community, which comes from the word ‘common.’ We all share this planet. And while some things will belong specifically to you, the sun does not revolve around you. The rest of the universe does not exist for you. You can place yourself at the center of the universe, but it will be a lonely place. Selfishness is not a desirable trait, even though we are all born with it, and revert back to it so frequently.
Selfishness is defined as being ‘concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.’ Humans have this innate ability to make everything about us. God did not create us to seek out our own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. Yet, that is exactly what caused the angel Lucifer to become the Devil. It is what caused Eve and Adam to become outcasts from God and paradise. Pride is at the core of selfishness. When we think we are the most important thing, we treat other like we are the most important thing.
The apostle Paul knew this, and when he described love to the early Christians he said this, “Love is not selfish.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) A truer statement could not be made. If you look up the word Paul uses for love, you will find that it is the kind of love that God has for people. It is from the same word used in John 3:16 where we find these words about God, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...” Love is marked by self-sacrifice. In fact, Paul’s phrase could be translated this way, “True love… the deepest love we know of, does not worship the one who is doing the loving.”
While we have a natural tendency to seek after things for our self… to be selfish, when we are filled with the love of Christ, selfishness does not have a place in us. Today, there will be numerous opportunities to be selfish. Selfishness will be on display everywhere, from the parking lot, to the line at the grocery store, to the managing of the remote control, to the way we spend our time with our family. At each intersection with other people there will be an opportunity to live selfish or selfless. You will determine your paradigm. Will you make decisions with yourself at the center, or with others at the center?
When Jesus was asked how we can gain eternal life, He replied, "Love God with everything you have. And love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Mark 12:30-31) If some of us would love others as much as we love ourselves... wow... that would be some serious love going around.
Personally, I know that the times in my life when I lived without regard for others are the most hurtful moments I can remember. This is especially true of the times when I was selfish in those relationships that matter most to me. I can’t go back and be unselfish. Neither can you. But we can be selfless today. We can love today as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us.
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.