“Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).
Have we become selfish?
Perhaps the answer seems obvious. Of course we are selfish. Selfishness is one of the core attitudes of sinfulness. And every one of us admits to being a sinner.
But that is not the point of the question. Have we become inordinately selfish? Have Christians adopted such behavior and lifestyles that they are distinguished by their selfishness?
That is a growing impression about Christians both inside and outside the church. As Christian churches more and more treat those they serve like consumers, as they try to package their product to appeal to the perceived needs of people sitting in the pew, they unwittingly reinforce the idea that life is about making myself happy. For many, if religion has any relevance, it is especially tied to how much more enjoyable it can make my earthly life.
That may not have been the intent of countless Christian classes, books, and seminars on child-rearing, marriage-building, money management, conquering bad habits, etc. But all that time put in on self-improvement means that “self” has spent a lot of time as the focus of our attention. It is hard to focus on others when we spend all our time thinking about ourselves.
Still, can it really be said that we are marked by our selfishness? The temptation is to defend ourselves. Look at all the aid Christians and their churches have given to those affected by the catastrophes around the world. Look at all the social agencies founded by Christians and supported by Christians: hospitals, shelters, food drives, nursing homes, orphanages, just to name a few.
How we compare to others in the “selfishness” category no doubt defies a definitive conclusion. But better than defending ourselves—far, far better than “improving” ourselves—is a humble attitude of repentance: a genuine acknowledgement of our selfish shortcomings, no matter how they compare, a heart-felt grief for the wrong we have done.
That turns our attention from self to the Savior. He is a need which is far more than “perceived.” There is nothing we need more than his forgiveness. And he has forgiven us by selflessly laying down his own life (not making it as enjoyable as possible) in payment for our sins.
With our eyes turned from sinful selves to selfless Savior, we see more clearly the needs of others around us. Service to our families will improve marriages, change the way we treat our children, and influence the way we handle money, to be sure. More than this, God’s grace puts us in a position to see the needs of others in our church, our community, our nation and our world. The freedom Jesus gives us in the gospel sets us free to live as servants, giving ourselves up to help the people God places in our path.
Many people believe that the old proverb, “God helps those who help themselves,” is in the Bible. It isn’t. God is especially interested in helping those who can’t help themselves. That’s the message of the Gospel. And then he is interested in helping us to help others.