Selfishness as Sin 14

Luke 6:31 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

When Christ first appeared in His public character, He displayed so much kindness, compassion and benevolence in healing the sick, relieving the distressed, and preaching the gospel to the poor, that He was almost universally beloved as well as admired…To anyone less acquainted with the human heart than Christ was, they would have appeared to be His real friends. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

As we look at this powerful text which explains so much to us about sin, we must proceed with questions and with care. We note first that there is no credit for loving those who love us. This is the same thing as saying (in context) if you love those who love you and even a sinful nature can do that, then that is nothing more than self-love. Look at the example of Christ as He went around with much kindness, compassion, and benevolence. Look at how Christ was loved when He healed people and relieved those who were distressed. Look at how the crowds followed Him when He did those things to them and that without charge. As long as Jesus was going things for people that were thought to be helpful to them they “loved” Him. The very people who would later hate Him and call for Him to be crucified loved Him as long as He did nothing but provide them with things they wanted.

A heart that is governed and controlled by self and self-love will indeed love what is done for it in accordance with self and self-love. When Jesus was healing the sick and relieving the poor, He was doing what selfish hearts want and desire. He knew what was in man and He knew that later on when He began to get into teaching the deeper things of God that those same people would hate Him, but we must know that His heart did not change as He told the people deeper truths later on. It was when Jesus began to tell people who God really was and what God would do to unrepentant sinners that the enmity in the hearts of people by nature began to show itself. It was when Jesus told these self-righteous men that they were vile and wicked sinners that the enmity that resided in their hearts against the true God burst out.

The commandment of God is to love our neighbor as ourselves (v. 31), but the command is far more than just be nice to those who are nice to us. The commandment of God is for us to love those who hate us as well. The commandment of God is for us to love those who are unkind and mistreat us as well. It is a command, then, to love God first and out of loving God we are to love our neighbors. We are to help those who hate us as well as those who are kind to us. We are to be kind and compassionate to those who are our enemies as well as those who are kind toward us. As we look at the comparison between those who love others only because others love them and those who love others based on who God is, a glaring difference is seen. One person is selfish (centered on self), full of self-love, and does all out of reference to self. The other is a person that is God-centered and does all out of love for God and out of reference to God. The difference is being the son of the devil versus the son of God.

What is set before us is the essence of holiness and the essence of sin. The essence of sin is not in the outward actions alone, but in the motives and intents of the heart. The sinful heart is always controlled by self and the love of self, so the sinful heart will do many outward things that appear good but will only do them as it appears good to self to do them. The sinful heart will only do what will bring what appears good in its eyes to self. The sinful heart is an unregenerate heart and as such is a natural heart or a heart that is not spiritual. This means that men can remain in an unregenerate and natural state and be extremely religious people. All the works of the natural man (unregenerate man) are not spiritual and as such are not done out of love to the true God. All that a natural man does will be from natural principles and all of his religion will be out of love for self. This natural man may indeed desire not to go to hell, but it will be from natural principles and self-love. The natural man may desire to go to heaven, but it will only be from natural principles and self-love. The natural man can be so very religious (as the Pharisee was) and yet do all out of self-love. The natural man can be quite scholarly and quite orthodox, but it is all out of self-love. The outward sinner who is so vile and wretched operates on precisely the same principles as the religious person who is but a natural man. Both are full of self and do all they do out of self-love. Instead of doing all out of love for God, both do all they do out of self-love. All that the religious person does who does all out of self-love is idolatry, which is to say that the person loves and serves self rather than God.

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