Conquering Selfishness

(Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia) 

Pride and selfishness wear many disguises. Sometimes they take the spotlight, but often they express a more subtle influence. In Isaiah chapter 66, verse 2, the Lord says that He looks on those who have a “humble and contrite spirit” and who tremble at His word. How can we conquer selfishness, and cultivate this kind of spirit?

. . .

The Self

The Bible tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Mark chapter 12, verse 31). We all think about ourselves, and we need to. We have a responsibility to look after our bodies, be wise in managing our finances, and use the our God-given abilities with an attitude of diligence.

However, as we seek to follow Christ in how we live, we must also be careful of our boast. There is testimony that points to God, and boasting that points to self. It is not always obvious in action, but God sees our heart. We can speak kind words to others for the sake of our self-worth, reputation and image, and we can speak the same words out of a heart that loves others the way God does. We can help someone to be dependent on us, or we can help them to find refuge in Christ.

Thinking about self can seem a muddy spot. We want our lives to shine for Christ, for the focus to be on Him and not us. Yet, we also need to notice and act wisely on the many opportunities He gives us to do this. There are times when we will be noticed by others, and these genuine opportunities to shine can also stoke our pride. 

. . .

Lay me down

Psalm chapter 119, verses 36-37 are a prayer for me, a reminder of why I can rest content in Christ regardless of the positive and negative attention I might receive from others.

 “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

One effective tool to conquer pride and selfishness is worship. When we worship, we recognise the greatness and majesty of God. He gives us life in His ways and covers the ugliness of our sin with the beauty of His love. When we see how much we are forgiven, the grievances we have against others seem trivial.

What and who do we fear? God or man? God, or our security, reputation, and relationships?

Christ gave His life for us when we despised Him. Realising how deeply and fully we are loved by Christ changes our perspective. We stop seeking to glorify ourselves, being caught up instead in worshipping God who deserves all praise!

When we understand that our lives are safe for eternity in God’s hand, earthly reputation and tribulation no longer control our lives. Our worth, purpose and success find their meaning in One; God our Heavenly Father who loves us and calls us His own. We can lay ourselves down, trust God and obey Him because there is purpose in His ways.

. . .

The mantle of servanthood

Being a servant does not mean agreeing to everything and avoiding conflict. A faithful servant is willing to risk their lives to stand for what is right, and to give others a chance to live. The Bible gives many examples of people who dared to speak up for truth. The mantle of servanthood is a healthy fear of God, and not man.

In one of his Bible in One Year devotions, Nicky Gumbel writes,

“Whatever you do in service of God, you can never put God in your debt. Everything we do is simply out of gratitude for what he has done for us.”

God has given us life and love in abundance. His salvation and mercy are unrepayable, but we can show gratitude through following His commands to love Him, obey His word and love those around us.

. . .

Will we conquer?

Can we fully conquer selfishness in this age? I believe it is an ongoing choice and battle to relinquish ourselves and follow Christ. When He comes again and we are transformed, fully freed from sin, the conquest will be complete. Right now, however, we make a choice. We can choose to turn our eyes on God, worship him, and contend for a Christ, and not self-centred life.

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