Selfishness as Sin 25

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.

It remains to inquire, why there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners exercise towards themselves and others. Christ supposes that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praiseworthy in it…Is there any thing truly virtuous or amiable in men’s loving themselves, or in loving others from mere selfish, mercenary motives? All men in the world know that there is no moral goodness in such selfish affections, and they are always unwilling to acknowledge that they are actuated by mercenary motives. Who is willing to allow that he loves himself merely because he is himself? Or that he loves others merely because they love him? Or that he does good to others only when he thinks it will be for his private advantage?…Who is willing to be seen in doing any act of selfishness? Who ever thanked another for doing him a benefit only for the sake of gaining a much greater benefit? We never thank men for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind that there is no virtue in that love which flows entirely from mercenary motives. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

If it is true that there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners exercise towards themselves and others, then we should know that there is nothing righteous in our acts. This must sink into our hearts that this is true of us and not just of others. If I looked at the acts of another and could know for sure that they proceeded from a selfish heart, I could know that those acts were sinful and without the least shred of righteousness. I must take that truth to my own heart as well, which means that I should seek the Lord to send His Spirit in my heart to enlighten me and drive this truth into the depths of my soul. The judgments that we pass on others should tell us that we believe those things to be true and that I must see that it is true of myself as well.

If there is nothing morally virtuous about love from mercenary motives, and indeed we would say harsh things about others in that regard, then we must seek the Lord to show us our own hearts in this matter. My mercenary motives are sinful and wicked as well. All the so-called love that I show that comes from love for self is nothing but an abomination before God. This too must be driven into the depths of our hearts by the Spirit. Our very love for ourselves makes us want to deny this or remain blind to it, but we must cry out to the Lord to give us eyes to see our own hearts and the depths of our own sin.

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;

Here we see the great truth that Paul teaches in Romans 7 and yet has applications beyond that. We must see that the Law teaches us about sin, but the Law has to come into the depths of our souls and the righteousness we think we have and we must die to our own righteousness. Oh how easy it is to be full of pride and not see that pride. Oh how easy it is to be a slave of self-righteousness and be blind to our self-righteousness. From what Emmons wrote above, it should be without question that multitudes walk around proud of their righteous deeds when in fact those deeds were moved by a mercenary law that they themselves would condemn in others. This should cause terror in our own hearts, or at least some sense of what we have done and to some degree are still doing. When Christians just cruise on auto-pilot (so to speak) and just go about their outwardly good lives, they need to see that auto-pilot is the pilot of self or it is self-pilot. We must be piloted by grace and we are to seek grace rather than just assume it is there. We must seek the death of self in ourselves so that we would no longer love from mercenary motives and seek the Lord to work the fruit of His Spirit in us which is love. We must seek Him to do this not because we deserve it in the slightest, but we should seek it in the way of free-grace. We should seek it because it glorifies Him and seek Him to show it to us for that reason and no other.

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