By Weldon E. Warnock
Webster defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” This kind of disposition is a sin, although a very respectable one in the eyes of men.
One of the characteristics of love is that it “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5). It is concerned about the welfare of others. “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17) Selfish people are lacking in love.
Selfishness in the Church
Many churches make very little effort, if any at all, to help preach the gospel outside of their own meetinghouse. They don’t mind spending any amount of money on their gospel meetings, their buildings, their programs, etc., but they are most reluctant to send any money to an evangelist in a difficult field of labor. Why is this? They are selfish.
What a contrast in the attitude of congregations in the New Testament. Philippi sent unto Paul at Thessalonica once and again for his necessity (Phil. 4:16). From the Thessalonians was “sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith in God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thess. 1:8). The church at Antioch had the missionary spirit to take the gospel into all the world (Acts 13:3). Churches supported Paul while he was at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8). Those brethren could not wait to share with others the heavenly blessings in Christ.
Some congregations today have thousands and thousands of dollars in the bank, but they absolutely refuse to spend any of it anywhere else. Their local work doesn’t demand the use of all their weekly collections, so they hoard it. Shame!
James P. Needham wrote, “Many preachers have been discouraged and disillusioned by the sickening selfishness characteristic of many churches. They are selfish with the Lord’s money. They do not make it possible for the preacher to use his time and talents to the greatest advantage for the Cause; they hinder his doing so by tying him down with local trivialities and handcuffing him to the local pulpit. There may be dozens of places that need his talents worse than they do, but have not the funds to support him. Such matters not to some churches. They must not let the church treasury sink lower than five or six thousand dollars. And they have the attitude that ‘we pay the local preacher to work for us.’
“Then, there are brethren who are preaching in hard fields on insufficient support. They beg for help, but their pleas fall on deaf ears! The brethren must guard the local church treasury with their lives, and never let it fall below a healthy balance; after all, an emergency might arise. (Yes, the Lord may come!)” (Preachers and Preaching 167).
Selfishness in the Home
The home is also affected with selfishness. A husband will buy whatever he needs for himself, such as tools and sports equipment, but will let his wife go wanting. A wife may neglect her home responsibilities for social activities or refuse to have children as they would interfere with her freedom to go when she pleases.
Some fathers drink and gamble for their own satisfaction, and their children haven’t enough to eat or wear. Some children are selfish with their parents. They make demands of them to satisfy their desires and ambitions without any consideration of the hardships such may cause their parents.
The prodigal son was a selfish young man. He insisted that his father divide the property between himself and his brother, although he was not entitled to it until the death of his father. It might cripple his father’s financial transactions and cause his brother to receive less an inheritance, but that was no concern of his. It would be hard to find a more selfish character. Let us have love and concern for one another in our family.
Selfishness in the Community
When people live just for themselves and to themselves, they are selfish. Nabal, an Old Testament character, was like this (1 Sam. 25). He was a wealthy man with 3000 sheep and a thousand goats, but yet refused the request of David and his men for necessary provisions when they were fleeing from Saul. Nabal became incensed and with scathing insults, said to the men, “Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? Shall I take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” (vv. 10-11) (Emphasis mine.) Though David and his men served as a wall of protection, both by night and day unto Nabal and his household (v. 16), Nabal, a churlish and evil man, cared only for himself.
Christians must be concerned about their neighbor’s good and the welfare of the community in which they live. We must be involved. Take an interest in the needs of your community and try to do something about them. “Do good unto all men” (Gal. 6:10). Be like the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37).
Capital and Labor could lie down together like the wolf and the lamb in Isaiah’s vision (Isa. 11:6) if it were not for selfishness. Wars could be avoided and peace and tranquility could be realized among the nations of the world if only we had regard and concern for the rights and happiness of others.
May we try to cultivate within ourselves a heart that is completely void of selfishness and pattern our lives after him who unselfishly gave his life for our sakes. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself” (Rom. 15:2-3).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 4, pp. 116-117
February 20, 1992