Forerunner, "Bible Study," February 2001

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.

1. 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.

Comment: 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.

2. In what ways does selfishness manifest itself? Proverbs 11:24-26; Ezekiel 34:18; Matthew 25:41-46; Matthew 27:3-4.

Comment: 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.

3. How is selfishness exemplified? II Timothy 3:1-5; Philippians 2:21; James 3:14, 16

Comment: 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.

4. Does selfishness bear consequences? Proverbs 23:19-21; Romans 13:8-14; Galatians 5:16-17.

Comment: 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.

5. 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.

Comment: 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."