Selfishness as Sin 65

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.

Philippians 2:19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.

[This is said of those] that were not only baptized into the name of Christ, but also professed a great deal of love outwardly to Christ and His cause, and yet it is said even of those, That they sought their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ. (Monster of Sinful Self Seeking, Edmund Calamy)

If sinners love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they suppose them to be subservient to their interest, then their affections are always selfish and sinful, let them rise ever so high, or extend ever so far. They often do love those who love them, very ardently. But they never love such persons so ardently as they love themselves. For all their love to others flows from love to themselves, and the streams can rise no higher than the fountain. Hence their most ardent and raised affections to others are as really selfish and sinful, as if they were ever so low and languid. Their nature is precisely the same whether they are stronger or weaker. It is morally impossible that their love to their friends or to their Creator should rise so high as to become disinterested or virtuous love…The same mercenary motives which induce them to love their intimate friends, may induce them to extend their regards to their country and to their Savior…Multitudes love their Redeemer because they think He loves them…It is exactly of the same nature as the love of the miser to his money…If it be criminal for one person to prefer his interest to a greater interest of another, it must be more criminal to prefer his interest to the greater interest of a nation, and for the same reason, it must be unspeakably more criminal still to prefer his interest to the whole interest of the universe. (Nathanael Emmons, Selfishness, International Outreach)

In this paragraph Emmons sets out for us one aspect of the horror of selfishness. In the modern day we tend to think of selfishness as something rather small and not really hurting others. It may be thought that it will cause an inconvenience to others and perhaps the selfish person is not all that great at times, but it is not thought to be a grievous sin. Emmons shows us that this is a great sin and it is directly in opposition to the Great Commandments. Modern man thinks of morality in terms of hurting others in the physical sense, but the Bible sets out morality as being primarily in the spiritual realm. Men are born dead in sins and trespasses and as such are dead spiritually and as such they are blind to their sin in that area. However, God is not blind and knows the depths of our sin.

The unbeliever cannot love others apart from the love s/he has for self. The unbeliever cannot love others to any degree above the degree that s/he loves self. The world operates, then, according to the principle of Satan who does all out of love for self. We also see how God is sovereign over the sins of men in that He can simply blind them to certain selfish aspects of sin and yet permit others. Man always chooses according to his selfish heart and what he thinks is best for his selfish heart. The degree of love that man has for others is always subservient to the love he has for himself, which is to say that man will always choose what is best for himself. The more a person thinks that s/he is loved by the other the more a person is able to love the other. However, that is still only a selfish heart loving itself and the things of self. It loves others for the sake of self.

The selfish heart does the same toward the Creator of all things. It only loves Him to the degree that it thinks He loves it. Oh how fervently some think they love God when all they are doing is love for what they think He is doing for them. Behold the religious fervency of many who think that God loves them and is pleased with their fervency, which is to say that they love what they think their fervency will obtain from Him for them. This is polar opposites to loving God for who He is and the glory that shines out from Him, but instead it is love for sinful and selfish self.

Perhaps it should be stated in a very rude way. When professing Christians (as opposed to real Christians) are zealous in their religion they are operating upon the same principles as all false religions. The principle of false religion is that of self and people work and do what they do in an effort to get something or appease a false god. But professing Christians (not real ones) are doing the same thing. They don’t love the true God and so have an image of a false god in their own minds and so they are fervent in their devotion to a false god. They do the same actions, go through the same rituals, yet the reality of the matter is that they do all they do out of the self-love of a selfish heart. All of their zeal and all of their ardency is based on false ideas and the love of self.

This should cause us all to examine our own hearts with greater intensity and care. Do I love the true God and do I love the true God for who He is and not just because I think that He does things for me? Is all my religious devotion out of love for Him (real love, though small) or is it moved out of love for self? What we should take care to note is that a small amount of true love is still true love and can only come from God. It may be that those who have false ideas of God may have a greater devotion and greater zeal in outward things than true believers. However, the small amount of true love that a true believer has is from the life of Christ in his or her soul and can only be there if God has broken the bonds of self-love.

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