We know about selfishness, for we all have a little of it in our own behavior. Seldom do we see a truly self-less person, and perhaps that is not as bad as some may say. In takeoff preparation, the flight attendant reminds us that in the event of a loss of oxygen we should first attach the oxygen supply to ourselves, and then assist our children with the equipment. In other words, save yourself so you can save your child.
Webster defines "self-less" in one word: unselfish. Christians are not forbidden to give consideration to themselves, for there are some self-obligations that must be in place before we can be of service to others. On Pentecost Peter was inspired to say:
"Save yourselves from this crooked generation," Acts 2:40.
After this, those who obeyed the gospel were told to take that same gospel to the whole world.
The Bible demands that we look first to our own weaknesses before we seek to solve the problems of others. That's not only biblical, but it makes good sense. A proper attitude about self is vital to all.
However, it is very easy for any of us to fall into an attitude of "me-first" in our relationships with others. Our attitude toward self must be in harmony with the words of the Holy Spirit in the following passages:
- "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others," Philippians 2:3.
- "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?… Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye," Matthew 7:1-5.
- "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Gal. 6:1.
"Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward," 2 John 1:8.
- "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not…that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Therefore, before we attempt to advise or teach others we must be aware of our own shortcomings lest we lose credibility with those to whom we want to be of service. But, though we must have proper regard for self, we must not allow selfishness to rule our lives. We must "look to ourselves," then look to the needs and best interests of others. The word most often used to describe the love between fellow Christians is agape, defined as a love that "puts the needs and service of others ahead of our own." It is not an easy task, however, and usually takes great effort to do so.
How do we rid ourselves of selfishness?
First of all, we look to the fact that Christians are given that task, commanded to be unselfish, as we have seen.
Second, we must learn to love our neighbor as Jesus has instructed: "Love thy neighbor as thyself," James 2:8. Therein lies the key-looking to others as having needs and doing what we can to fulfill those needs. We cannot love others without having a proper attitude toward self.
Third, we must be willing to expend the time and energy to accomplish this task. Yes, we will have to take time from our own pleasures-which will not be easy at first-but will bring great satisfaction to our souls.
Fourth, we would be more inclined to do these things if we realized the magnificent truth found in Jesus' words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive," Acts 20:35. Once we discover this blessedness, Satan will have a hard time stopping us in our good, selfless deeds.
Fifth, remember that your neighbor has a soul that will occupy eternity in either heaven or hell, and your efforts may be the deciding factor in their eternal destination.
Last, but not least, remember that this is not an optional matter, but one mandated to all of us by our Lord. We must rid ourselves of selfishness if we seek heaven as our eternal home.