Am I a Selfish person?

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

I make –many times- strong comments… for example, I do believe that all current challenges in the world, have their main cause in the selfishness of us as human beings: … wars… corruption… pandemics…are often caused by leaders interested in power, to satisfy themselves. But there are also many examples on a micro-level such as: How do I leave the bathroom when I share it with another person? When I drive, do I allow others to cross although I have the priority? How do I park? Do I give things that I did not use for a long time to others? Do I discuss my plans with my partner or do I just inform her/him about my plans? On Sundays after the service: do I eat all the biscuits that other people brought?  

The opposite of selfishness is generosity: “the attitude of being concerned of the interest of others above our own interest”. But even stronger, the opposite of selfishness is love. I am thinking about the definition of love that Vinod gave us some time ago: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own and at times more important than your own”. Some important figures in the bible that are mentioned as selfish people are:

Cain, who had no concern for others (Genesis 4). Cain was jealous of his brother and having no regard for anyone but himself, murdered his brother. When God asked him where Abel was, Cain responded “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). Cain’s selfishness caused him to hate his brother and to kill him (1 John 3:11-12). Notice the key word: others! In fact, we are or should be our “brother’s and “sister’s keepers”. We are to look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4) and to esteem others better than one self (Phil. 2:3). We are asked to love each other (1 John 4:7).

David – his selfish attitude caused him to seek fulfillment of his own pleasures with no regard of the cost. He decided to sin with Bathsheba and his selfishness then led to lies and murder (2 Samuel 11). God did not allow his sin to go unpunished. He sent the prophet Nathan to announce God’s judgment upon him. Like David, many people today are selfishly pursuing their own pleasure with no regard of the impact upon others. Notice the key word: own! Pleasures, actions, interests…

James and John — who selfishly desired power and prestige for themselves. Their mother asked for the most prestigious and powerful positions in Jesus’ kingdom (Matt. 20); it was not about helping others, but to have their own egos inflated and fulfilled. Jesus said that those who will be great in His kingdom will be first a servant of all (Matt. 20:26-27). Notice the key word: serving!

The Older Brother of the prodigal (Luke 15) — he had no compassion or love for his brother when he came back after so many years. Jesus said to all of us: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). While the older brother seemed to love his father, his lack of love for his brother showed otherwise. The Christian may claim to love God but if, out of selfishness, he/she does not love his brother, he/she, in reality, does not love God (1 John 4:20-21). Notice the key word: Love!

According to some authors, the word selfishness is mentioned in the Bible around 80 times. Only a few examples:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Selfishness caused the rich young ruler to turn his back on Jesus (Matthew 19:21-22). Selfishness ruins friendships (Proverbs 18:1), hinders prayer (James 4:3), and is the product of earthly wisdom (James 3:13-14).

Combating the selfish ambition requires:

  1. Genuine humility. Humility restores relationships. Being humble involves having a true perspective about ourselves in relation to God. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).
  2. Prayer and a Love. “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain” (Psalm 119:36). Love covers a multitude of sins, including selfishness. If we are truly “devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Romans 12:10), we cannot be selfish. Having the attitude of Christ is to demonstrate compassion for all those we come in contact with.
  3. Knowing where our treasure is. The Christian is laying up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21). He knows it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and he lives according to the truth that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

My work requires designing surveys to explore reasons for good (or bad) knowledge and habits towards good health… this time I will apply some questions for couples to assess if we are selfish persons:

1. Are you usually excited to do something you enjoy? And if it’s something your partner wants to do -that you’re not particularly excited about-, do you get bored or restless easily and try to squirm out of it?     

Yes:        No:

2. Every time there’s a discussion about something to do or some place to go to, do you usually end up getting things your way even if that means leaving your partner sad or less-than-happy?

Yes:        No:

3. Do you think that your job is more meaningful and worthwhile than what your partner does?

Yes:        No:

4. Do you want to do everything your way? 

Yes:        No:

5. Do you believe that losing an argument is a sign of weakness?

Yes:        No:

6. Are you cautious about trusting your partner easily because you believe that you are the only one who can achieve happiness for yourself?

Yes:        No:

7. Would you put your own partner down or walk all over their plans just to win something for yourself?

Yes:        No:

8. Do you get a hard lump in your throat each time you have to apologize to your partner?

Yes:        No:

9. Do you see your partner as imperfect and ask her/him to change for you?

Yes:        No:

The more positive answers you get… the more you are a selfish person! But the real question is: Do I really want to change?

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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