2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV) “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
I assume you read this verse. Great, read it again and soak it in. Look around your lives, and I gander there are more people you know who fit this description than don’t. Think of work, neighbors, friends, and yes, even some at your church. We are pretty much surrounded by selfish people. They think only of themselves and won’t give a second thought to stepping on others to get what they want. They are never satisfied and are always hungry for more stuff, more prestige, and whatever else they want.
The only thing they don’t want is Jesus. Nope, not Him… too boring, no fun, handcuffed to “rules,” and is completely opposite of what they want – themselves and only themselves. They don’t know the freedom Jesus has to offer.
I know people like this, just as you do. It is hard to swallow to know that because you are a follower of Christ and are not unscrupulous in your ways. It would be easy to set aside Christian morals and values because it seems to be the only way to get ahead in life, but we don’t. We don’t because we have a bigger picture of the grand scheme of eternity. People take advantage of us because we are not selfish. We are giving and caring. We put others’ needs before our own. The selfish people think we are weak, but we are quite opposite. We are strong. Only weak people take the easy way out, and that is to be selfish.
I’ve been on the dirty end of a poopy pole from those who are selfish. It hurts. It made me angry. It wanted me to have revenge in some way. I cursed those who did me wrong in my head. But you know what? I didn’t do any of that because that is not how we are to operate as followers of Jesus. We are to be patient and kind. We are to give our enemies the clothes off our backs. We are to pray for them. Why? Because justice will be God’s, not ours.
When people act out in selfish ways towards us, we are told to turn the other cheek, but that is hard. It is easier to turn our fist to their face, but that wouldn’t do any good except get us fired or thrown in jail. We want revenge because we were wronged. It is easy to explode with a barrage of hateful words or to take unethical actions, but we don’t. We are better than the selfish ones. We are on the straight and narrow path to glory while they are on the wide and dark path to hell.
Before I knew Christ, much like I suppose you were too, I was selfish. If it wasn’t about me, it didn’t matter. I was number one in my eyes, and I believed I should be in everyone else’s as well. Even if I was wrong, I was right; and if I were right, I was supremely right. To hell with others because it was about me and my wants and desires and no one else’s. Even when I was a new Christian, it took me awhile to learn it wasn’t about me but about Christ and others.
Before I was saved, I had morals and values, as long as they fit my agenda for myself that particular day. If I felt it was good for me, it was a good moral and value. If someone was against me, they were immoral. It was simple; I was the center of my universe, and that was the problem. I lived in my own imaginary world where everyone was serving my purpose and my will.
Only as I began growing in Christ did this all change. Only when I took myself out of the extended equation of my life did I realize that my life was not mine, but Christ’s. I mattered to God, yes, but not in a selfish way. Selfishly, I would think God serves me, but in reality, I am to serve Him.
When we come to and grow in Christ, our selfish desires dwindle as Christ increases in our life. Selfish actions fade, and Christ gets brighter when we give up self. This means we must deny ourselves and embrace the life Christ wants from us as described in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Denying ourselves is the hard part because of our fallen and selfish nature.
Look at society. Look around you, and you see that Satan has morphed society to be self-centered. Ads on television, radio, internet, and published media all point to the need to satisfy our selfish and worldly desires. I don’t see ads that say give up material goods for Christ. It is always the opposite tale to get us to be slaves to debt to get what “we deserve” in life. Satisfying our selfish desires is what society wants to drive us; and if we fall victim to living for selfish ends, we are trading our relationship with Jesus for the world.
We can overcome though, but it takes effort on our part. We need to be able to peel the veil off our eyes and see the world for what it really is – about pleasing self. Period. Once we recognize and have a mindset of knowing what the world wants us to believe and have, we can begin discerning what is good for us and what is harming us.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” It isn’t following Him only on Sunday mornings or when it is convenient for us, or as a quid pro quo relationship. No, this is a daily occurrence and effort on our part. Each day we need to remind ourselves of this through the renewing of our minds. Otherwise, we will fall back into our old habits of pleasing and doing for self those things that oppose taking up our crosses each day. We can’t pick and choose when to follow Jesus. We can’t put Him aside in parts of our lives when we want to serve self.
The above verse says to do this daily. Daily means all day, each day. When we do this each day, we can be immune to the temptations the world has to offer us to satisfy self. We instead will want to only serve Christ in lieu of self. We will always be tempted; therefore, by renewing our minds each day in Christ, we will less likely drop our guards down. If we do fail at one point or another, we can learn from the mistake by repenting, not repeating, and picking up our cross again to serve Jesus.
Selfishness is a battle we must each face. We are each uniquely challenged by Satan and the world to give up Christ to satisfy self. We must battle these temptations through the strength Christ provides us and through our efforts to consciously avoid those things that we know can tempt us to please self. When we do this, we will live fully for Christ and not ourselves; and not only will our lives change, but the light and example we provide will draw others to us and ultimately to Jesus.