Selfishness as Sin 22

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.

Let us consider why sinners love themselves. It is plainly supposed in the text that sinners love themselves…In other passages of Scripture, they are said to be lovers of their own selves, to seek after their own things and not the things of others. But this is too evident from experience and observation to need any proof. Sinners certainly love themselves. But why? Not for the same reason that saints love themselves; if they did, they would be saints. Nor do they love themselves from mere instinct, as the lower species of animals do. But they love themselves because they are themselves, which is neither a true love nor a mere animal affection, but proper selfishness…Sinners love themselves, not because the general good requires them to regard their personal happiness, but because they are themselves. They love their own interest because it is their own, in distinction from the interest of all other created or uncreated beings. This is a free, voluntary exercise, which is contrary to their reason and conscience, and which they know to be in its own nature wrong. To love themselves, therefore, because they are themselves, is to love themselves from a motive peculiar to selfish creatures. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

Within these words is a profound teaching if one will take the time to think and meditate on it. Self-love is thought to be the root of all love in the modern world, but the Scriptures tell us that we are to love God with all of our being. If the older writers were correct (such as Emmons and Edwards and so on) then self-love is the true root of all the evil that we do and all that flows from this sinful self-love is sinful regardless of the action. While saints (all true believers) love themselves out of a love for God, the unbeliever loves all things out of love for self (self-centered self). When the believer loves self it is out of love for God and as such that love takes others into consideration. But the sinful self loves self as the center and the goal and as such it is not concerned about others if they get in the way of the love for self.

The saint/believer loves self (self as distinct to other beings, the “me” or “I”) out of love for God and loves (takes care of things like food and drink and health) himself because that is necessary to love God and others. The unbeliever loves self (sinful self) because that is all he desires and longs for. The unbeliever will step on others to fulfill the desires of self. It is important to realize these things in order to get at the real sin of loving self.

It can be quite confusing since for God it is a holy thing to love Himself and for believers who love God their love of self is not sinful. However, for the unbeliever their love of self is the root and essence of sin. The word “self” is used somewhat in an equivocal way, which means we have to think to keep issues straight. For example, we can use the word “bald” and means several things by it. There is the bald eagle, there is a bald tire, we speak of bald meanings, and we speak of people as having bald heads. The word “self” is also used with different meanings and we must keep those things in mind or we will be very confused.

The word “self” can mean that a person is speaking of himself or herself rather than other people. It is one way of distinguishing “me” from others in language. The word “self” can also mean the sinful self which Jesus instructs us to hate that self and that we must deny that self. It is that self that is the center of sinful self-love and the horrible self-focus of the heart. It is that self that is the idol of the sinful self and is what sinful self serves and loves in all that it does. It is that self that the unbeliever does all that s/he does whether sin or be religious. It is that self that the common criminal and the serial killer serves, but also it is that self that some who are very religious serve. It is also that self that a person must die to in order to truly follow Christ.

For the regenerate person the word “self” can be used to refer to the spiritual self. The spiritual self is the inner part of the soul that is the real “me” and yet is united to Christ. As Christ told us that what we do unto the least of them we have done unto Him, so there is a sense in which how we treat ourselves is how we treat Christ. That should not be taken too far, but we are to love our souls in the sense that we are to feed them with Christ for His glory. We should love our souls in the sense that we should flee from sin in order not to dishonor Christ. For the believer, then, they must love their own souls if they are going to love Christ. But this is far different than the unbeliever who loves the sinful and self-centered self at the expense of all. The believer loves the Christ in him or her and that is out of love for God and is for the good of others.

The sinful self is the very heart of sin. It is to be like the devil (and unbelievers are said to be his children) in walking around doing as our sinful hearts desire rather then seeking the Lord to please Him. This sinful self is what unbelievers are enslaved to. They follow the raging lusts and desires of self whether it is in open and gross sin or whether it is being extremely religious. Sinners sin for the sake of self and sinners are religious for the sake of self. Either way the person lives for self and does all for self. Only free-grace in Christ can deliver a person from this horrible bandage to self and sin a bring them to love God and others. Only free-grace can open our eyes to see just how sinful our righteous acts really are apart from Christ. Only free-grace can give us love in our hearts that we may love even our enemies because love for God is the basis and not love for sinful self.

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