Selfishness as Sin 46

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)

When we look at things as Emmons sets out with his illustrations from the Bible, we see that it is not so much that the outward acts are good, but it is the reason that they are done. The devil himself does outward good acts and appears as kind and compassionate in seeking the good of others, but he does so to obtain his own selfish end. While we would agree that his motives are evil, we may not see our own hearts in the same light. In fact, however, our own selfish hearts move us to do outwardly good acts for selfish reasons as well. As Emmons points out, Satan was seemingly concerned with the good of Adam and Eve in the Garden when he tempted them to sin. He appeared concerned with their ability to know things and for them to be happy and he questioned God’s motives toward them. We can easily see one application of how that works in the modern day and that is when people question the motives of God in His commands and precepts in Scripture. They say something like that surely a good God would not restrict people from things like this. They are acting just like the devil.

When Jesus was in the wilderness and had nothing to eat for 40 days, Satan tried to get Him to turn stones into bread. After all, when someone is that hungry and has gone such a long time they need to eat. But what were the motives of Satan in his kind and caring (in appearance) to Jesus? He was trying to get Jesus to sin against God. What was Satan doing when he tried to get Jesus to show that He was the Son of God by throwing Himself off of the Temple because Scripture says that God will command His angels concerning Him? He was trying to get the Messiah out of his way, but how concerned he appeared to be as he tried to get Jesus to show that He was the Son of God. What was Satan’s motive in offering Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory? It sounds as if that was a kind offer for then Jesus could avoid the cross and yet have the whole world as rightfully His. However, Satan’s motive was for himself and he thought Jesus might be tempted to have the same motive.

When Satan appeared to tempt both our first parents and Jesus, he did not come across as the prince of great evil. He came across as interested in the well-being of others. He sounded so reasonable and wise and even compassionate as such. However, when Adam and Eve fell into sin he brought about the fall into sin and misery for the whole human race and he did it for his own selfish purposes. The three trials he brought to Jesus his selfish intent was to stop the Messiah and as such leave the whole human race with no savior at all. The standard of evil, then, is not so much an outward act, but it is the intent of the selfish heart.

Human beings justify their sins by an appeal to their selfish hearts, but in reality they should see that this appeal is to be like the devil and increases their guilt. When they do something wrong and then say that it appeared as good to them, the reason it appeared good to them is because they were looking at it through the lenses of a selfish heart. While we can see the great evil of acts of terror in our world, we may be blind to the hideous acts of evil that are common each Sunday in the pulpits of the land. Children of Satan are trying to get people to be moral and religious based on selfish considerations and avoid speaking of the glory of God and true holiness. Children of Satan are trying to get people to make decisions based on selfish considerations and yet that is to be like Satan rather than to preach the Gospel. Children of Satan are using all kinds of selfish motives to get people “saved” and yet they are keeping the true Gospel of grace alone from the people. It is so easy to want people to like you when you are in the pulpit and so tickle their ears, but that is precisely what Satan does and wants. Until preachers are willing to offend people and preach things that they don’t like and perhaps even hate, the Gospel will not be preached.

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