Overcoming Selfishness

 

To be "Overcoming Self" means to be a conqueror (Romans 8:37) of one's own selfish pride. It is self-centered pride (Proverbs 29:23) which prevents a soul from being ready and willing to obey God. It is the selfishness and self-centered pride of "self" that blocks out obedience to Christ. It stops souls from even seeking Christ (Matthew 7:7). It is not suggested that Christians have no personalities that are unique. They do and should. For example, the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus had different talents and temperaments. But when Jesus got finished with them (except for Judas Iscariot) they had overcome their clumsy selfish ambitions and were ready to work their unique talents for the Savior, "with one mind," Philippians 1:27.

 

Pride is: the vain thinking when people falsely pretend to know God's will when they do not; or think that their way is as good or better; or think that they do not need God (see 1 Timothy 6:3-6 and James 4:6-10); or say there is no God (Psalm 14:1). As shown in Matthew 23, some of the worst cases of sinful pride can be seen among the falsely religious, who presume to go before others "in God's name."  Finally, when it comes to religious terror by the proud, immature, or brainwashed, consider John 16:2 and 1 Peter 3:12-16.

 

Put off the Old. In Colossians 3:9, followers of Christ are told not to lie to each other, since they have "put off" the "old man" with his deeds. So the "self" here means that old sinful self that must be forsaken, for the sake of truth in the sight of God. In fact, "crucified" (Galatians 2:20) and killed "dead" (Romans 6:6-11) is what our old man self is to be. This is completed after being "buried" with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-5). This baptism also is to "put on Christ," Galatians 3:27.

Put on the New. Then in Colossians 3:10 it says to "put on the new man" which is "renewed" in knowledge. Likewise, after baptism into the death of Christ, Romans 6:4-5 says the Christian should walk (live) in "newness" of life. This new life shall be "in the likeness of His resurrection." 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that one who is thus "in Christ" is a "new creature." Because "old things are passed away," therefore "all things are become new." A new understanding (Ephesians 5:17), new relation to Christ (Romans 8:1-2), new worship in truth (John 4:24), new true religion (1 John 4:1-6; James 1:22-27), new friends (John 15:14), and new hope - heaven (Hebrews 11:16; Titus 1:2).

 

Overcoming Self. Psalm 36:2 exposes the need to overcome self: "For he [the wicked] flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful." A person who has overcome self will gladly acknowledge where they have been ignorant, or lacking in knowledge. They will be willing to hear and "increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:8-10). In Acts 2:36-42, some 3000 people "gladly received" the word of truth, then obeyed. They had just been told that they had been crucifiers of Christ, Acts 2:23,36. Now, it was time for them  to "crucify self," to overcome self and obey Christ. Question: Just what did they obey? Answer: the pristine gospel of Christ. That meant 1st century, pure gospel teaching of one body, before Satan had filled mankind to confuse, corrupt, dilute, double talk, and sectarianism (then blame it on Jesus).

Selfishness causes a person to excessively focus on themselves. This attitude will prevent a person from experiencing the joys of sharing, giving and having genuine, good quality relationships. However, there are some things that a person can do to try and overcome their selfishness. Change your mind set. Decide to think and focus on others and not only yourself. When a person only cares about and focuses on himself, it prevents a person from establishing and experiencing true and genuine relationships. Understand the importance of honoring people as opposed to revering things or money over people. Know that people and good and genuine relationships are more important and more valuable than having money and material possessions.

 

Begin to start giving to the poor, widows and orphans via organizations and charities that help the poor and needy. Giving significantly is one way to combat selfishness. Be sensitive to people's needs around you in your environment. Discern who may be in need of your help and assistance and reach out to them in a caring manner and help them. This will help to keep the focus off of "self" alone which will help you to be a more whole and healthier person emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

 

We have all noticed how people who are always thinking of their own pleasures and interests often make others yield to them. They seem to obtain everything they seek except happiness, and they are thus always dissatisfied. Our society fuels this attitude in children from infancy. Disregarded is God's command to honor father and mother, and instead, parents put children on pedestals. Yes, encouragement and love are important for a child's balanced development as a Christian. However, as with all aspects of life, human nature pursues the opposite of God's command. Thus, today's adults ignore God's instruction and honor, serve, and pamper their children.

 

This world's treatment of its children is a formula for creating spoiled, selfish human beings, and this selfishness becomes more dominant the older a person becomes. A child taught to honor and respect his parents also respects and cares for others. He thinks of others while sacrificing his own personal gratification. Contrary to common opinion, he receives a great benefit from his outgoing concern: A selfless person is usually the happiest of all. In this Bible Study, we will analyze the transgression of loving oneself first—selfishness.

 

What common thread weaves through the biblical examples of selfishness? Genesis 4:9; I Samuel 25:2-11; Esther 6:4-6; Mark 10:35-37; Luke 10:29-32. No one is immune to selfishness. A quick glance at biblical examples shows the problem in the called and uncalled alike. We see it in Cain's cold-blooded words concerning Abel, Nabal's refusal of food to David, Haman's selfish conceit, James and John's seeking of high position, and the priest and Levite's passing by the wounded man. Human nature is self-centered, and we must overcome it.

 

In what ways does selfishness manifest itself? Proverbs 11:24-26; Ezekiel 34:18; Matthew 25:41-46; Matthew 27:3-4. As a mechanism of self-preservation, people are inclined to hoard, but while hoarding may make a person materially wealthy, it leads to spiritual destitution. We can see selfishness in false ministers as they disregard the spiritual health of their flocks while seeking their own pleasures. Ignoring the rights of others, neglecting the needy and suffering, and showing heartless indifference are symptoms of selfishness. In the case of Judas Iscariot, this attitude lead to the ultimate selfish act—betrayal of our Savior.

 

How is selfishness exemplified? II Timothy 3:1-5; Philippians 2:21; James 3:14, 16. Paul writes that in the last days it will appear as self-love, self-seeking, and selfish ambition at an unprecedented level. Some will not reciprocate loving deeds, not seeing what they receive but only what more they can get. Selfishness is having too much concern with one's welfare or interests and too little or none for others. We often refer to this type of person as self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-serving.

 

Does selfishness bear consequences? Proverbs 23:19-21; Romans 13:8-14; Galatians 5:16-17. God has designed into His law natural ramifications for selfishness. Like any sin, it carries with it inherent curses. Selfishness ultimately results in poverty, sin, and loss of spirituality. Galatians 5:16 discloses a rule regarding overcoming the propensities of our selfishness and avoiding the evils of strife and contention. If we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome all our human tendencies, but because we resist that Spirit, selfishness overcomes us.

 

What can we learn from biblical examples of unselfishness? Genesis 13:1-9; Genesis 50:15-21; Daniel 5:16-17; I Corinthians 10:24, 31-33; 13:4-5; II Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 1:21-22. Many examples of unselfish people appear in God's written Word. Abram dealt unselfishly with Lot when he gave Lot his choice of land. Joseph provided for his brothers and their children even after all his brothers had done to him. Daniel refused any gifts or rewards from King Belshazzar for his interpretation so that he would not gain from God's inspiration and that God would receive the glory. These examples show that unselfishness is the way of give—of outgoing concern.

 

Paul writes of the best way to overcome selfishness: "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Throughout his ministry, he sought not his own profit but to help others prepare for God's Kingdom. Certainly, Christ's example of His sacrifice for us is the ultimate unselfish act. Since selfishness is the seeking of our own lusts regardless of its impact on others, it is sin and must be overcome. We must avoid seeking our own pleasures, instead seeking the good of others and putting Christ first. This will manifest true Christian love, which "suffers long and is kind" and "does not seek its own."

 

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