Love Is Not Selfish

Suppose you are in a group photo. The first time you see the picture, where do you look? If you look good, do you like the picture? If you are the only one who looks good, do you still like the picture? If some are cross-eyed and others have spinach in their teeth, do you still like the picture? If that makes you like it even more, you’ve got a bad case of selfishness.

We all struggle wutg selfishness. The Bible doesn’t hide the fact that even among the apostles, selfish attitudes and power struggles existed. James and John, for example, thinking exclusively of themselves, asked Jesus to give them places of highest honor in the kingdom: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37). James and John were card-carrying members of the "self-seekers" club. Their selfishness caused the other apostles to become indignant because they, too, were self-seekers.

The self-centered see everything through self. Their motto? “It’s all about me!” The flight schedule, the traffic, the dress styles, the worship styles, the weather, the work, everything is filtered through the mini-me in the eye: selfishness. Selfishness can be fatal. Listen to the words of James, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16). 

I love what R.C.H. Lenski wrote: “Cure selfishness, and you’ve just replanted the garden of Eden.” I think he is right. And Turtellian: “He who lives only to benefit himself confers upon the world a benefit when he dies.”

Love is not preoccupied with self.  Love “does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor. 13:5). This means that love does not seek its own interests or its own advantage. Love is not preoccupied with the interest of the self. This is especially important to understand because we live in an age of radical individualism. These are the “me” years. People place themselves at the center of the universe, which rightfully belongs to God. This all-consuming focus on self is completely contrary to the heart of a Christian.

If Jesus had sought to please Himself, there would have been no cross. “Christ did not please himself” (Rom. 15:3). Our Lord came not to be served but to serve: “I am among you as the one Who serves” (Luke 22:27). 

Also, Paul did not seek his own way. If he had, he would never have endured all the grief involved in spreading the gospel and caring for the churches. But because of his love for Christ, expressed through love for others, he could say, “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many” (1 Cor. 10:33). “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor. 9:19). “I seek not what is yours but you.... I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:14-15). 

This was not an easy example for the Corinthian believers to follow. They insisted on their rights and freedoms to eat foods offered to pagan idols even if taking such liberties hurt the conscience of their weaker brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 8-10). They didn’t understand the spirit. It still isn't easy today. It didn’t matter to them that “if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love” (Rom. 14:15). They used their marvelous liberties and gifts for their own selfish ends rather than for the good of the whole community. Love says this: “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor. 8: 13).

As self-seekers, they also didn’t understand the servant role of a Christian. Some at Corinth even viewed Paul’s suffering and selfless life as an example of weakness and failure. Their view of leadership was power and rulership, not weakness and servanthood; therefore, they doubted his apostleship. These same misconceptions about true leadership persist today. 

Rickie Jenkins