Selfishness as Sin 43

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.

If sinners may love themselves and others from mere selfish motives, then it is easy to account for all their kind and friendly conduct towards their fellow creatures, consistent with their total depravity. Their selfishness naturally prompts them to do anything which they think will turn to their own personal advantage. To gain friends, they will show themselves friendly. To gain the love, esteem, and confidence of others, they will do acts of kindness, compassion, and even liberality. And the most depraved and selfish creature in the universe would do the same things, to obtain the same selfish ends. Satan always acts from this motive, when he transforms himself into an angel of light, and appears to seek the good of others. When he tempted our first parents, he professed to be more concerned to promote their knowledge and happiness, than even their Creator. When he tempted Christ to turn stones into bread, and commit himself to the divine care and protection, he appeared like a kind and friendly angel. (Nathaniel Emmons, 1745-1840, Selfishness, International Outreach, 2009)

If it is true that sinners love those who love themselves, then it follows that these people will be kind and compassionate to obtain some selfish end (goal, result). As with the Pharisees, they did their acts of righteousness in order to be seen by men (Matthew 6). They prayed in order to be honored by men, they gave alms to be seen and honored by men, and they fasted in order to be honored by men. The Pharisees used the things of religion (and God Himself) in order to obtain honor for themselves which demonstrates that they had selfish hearts and sought selfish goals (ends) in their religious activity. Al Capone (Chicago mobster of the 1920’s) ran charity kitchens and fed the poor as had people murdered and murdered people himself. Hitler was not beyond giving nice things to people when it served his purposes. Some of the most brutal mobsters in American history were kind and merciful to their wives, children, and families. Sinners love themselves supremely and do evil or outward good in accordance to their own selfish ends and purposes.

When some of the most evil men in history are set out in this way it may appear that others do not have selfish hearts. However, don’t forget that alongside those evil men in history we have the most religious men doing the same thing. History is rife with religious men who did many outwardly good things and yet when the veil was lifted from their secret lives they had committed very evil deeds. We have priests molesting children. We have pastors molesting children and having affairs. We have pastors committing murder as well. Outward religion will not change the heart of men, but all it does is to channel the self-love of sinners in one direction. The problem, however, is when the heart is not changed by grace it can be turned to gross outward sin when self-love dictates. This is also a huge problem with getting people to make decisions for Christ. If they made a decision and that is what changes them, then they can also make a different decision when it appears good for their selfish hearts.

As Jesus set out for us in John 8, the father of the Pharisees was the devil. When they told a lie (said Jesus) they were simply acting like their father who was the father of lies. After all, why do people lie? It is for selfish reasons and in order to obtain a selfish goal. This is the modus operandi of Satan and all of his children, regardless of their status in life and regardless of how religious they may or may not be. Satan is the most selfish being in the universe and he will stoop and appear to be doing what is good for others in order to obtain his own purposes. He will use religion to gain his own purposes and so will his children. He deceives with religion and as such his children are deceived and go around deceiving as well, though they may be doing so because they are in darkness. This cannot be stressed too much. Unregenerate men and women are children of the devil and they act like him in appearing to do what is good for others and yet doing so for their own selfish purposes. A mere choice for Christ coming from a wicked and selfish heart will not change that selfish heart, but instead it will deceive that selfish heart even more by giving it a form of religion without the power thereof. Sinners need a new heart and it must come by the power of God and His free-grace or all the religion of men will be the products of nothing but idolatry and self-love.

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