The Test #5 Am I Selfish?
The Test #5 Am I Selfish?
It’s always all about me. It’s my way or the highway. You are obviously overreacting, you need to toughen up and do what I say. Mine! Just let it go you’re being irrational. You made me do that, it’s your fault. I know what’s best for all of us. I do what I want, when I want, to whom I want, as long as I think I can get away with it. You gotta look out for number one. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. I don’t have time for you. Ah, the things selfish people say.
The followers of Jesus are to be lovers. When asked what the greatest command of God was Jesus answered:
Matthew 22:37–40 (NIV)
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love for God is demonstrated in your obedience to His commands (I John 5:3). You have bent your knee making a sacred vow to align yourself with His purposes, His ways, and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Love for others is seeking to meet their need, even at the cost of a personal sacrifice (Jon 15:13). In the Kingdom it is not about “I, me, and, mine” its about “us and we,” in this together. The antithesis of Kingdom values is selfishness. When Christ is in you, instead of being self-centered you become Christ and Others centered.
In this teaching, we continue asking ourselves the self-examination test questions. Religion can delude us into thinking we are living the way Jesus wants because we believe some doctrine, recited some prayer, and follow some rules. Our egoism can deceive us that we are disciples of Jesus when really, we are just doing what we want. The culture conforms and rationalizes our behaviors, after all, you’re only human. We need to be sure that Christ is in us, we need to be sure that we are being led by Christ and not our own whims, or just as dangerous, the whims of false teachers, and prophets. You need to be sure that your faith is real.
2 Corinthians 13:5–6 (NIV)
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
We’ve considered four of the self-exam questions: “Am I Truthful? Am I Honest? Am I Pure? Am I easily offended? (E Stanley Jones, Victorious Living, p 28). Those teachings can be found online [www.hbcc.life, on YouTube channel HBCC Life and Facebook HBCC Church]. Their purpose is to motivate you into practicing the 7th habit of a disciple, contemplation, in which you have a heart-to-heart conversation with God about the state of your soul. In this teaching, we will lay the groundwork for answering the question: “Am I selfish?”
“Am I selfish, or consecrated? What am I living for: myself, my own position, money, place, power? Or are my powers at the disposal of human need? At the disposal of the Kingdom?” (E Stanley Jones, Victorious Living, p. 26). Christian, hear the Word of the Lord:
Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
“Selfish people put their own needs above everything else” (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid). The subtly of selfishness is that the person who is selfish tends not to realize they are. In the business world, it is perfectly fine to use people as rungs on the ladder of success, that’s business. In the relational world, it's unfortunately normal to ghost someone when the situation is no longer beneficial to you. In the religious world when it’s not done the way you think it should be done, you break fellowship and go searching for greener “pastors.”
Selfish people are manipulators. They are all about themselves so they are going to try to force you to do what they want. “If you love me, then you will….” You can fill in the blank. It’s a play on your emotions, it’s laying that HGT on you, that heavy guilt trip. The victim card is another form of manipulation, the idea is for you to see how bad they have it so you will sympathetically come to their rescue. (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid)
Selfish people need ego validation so they must always know what’s best. They argue, they dismiss your objections, because they must be right. Winning is the only thing for the selfish. “The ends justify the means.” Doesn’t matter what you do if you get what you want. They are convinced that things are supposed to go the way they want them to. (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid)
A selfish person will expect you to be at their beck and call, to drop everything you are doing to rearrange your schedule, to inconvenience yourself to meet their request. This is never a two-way street. You ask them for help and if they don’t want to there will be a million excuses as to why they can’t assist you. If they do come through for you, they will believe that you owe them one. “After all, I’ve done for you, you can’t do this for me?” These types of folks love to make their problems your problems. (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid)
Since they can never be wrong the selfish person won’t hear your loving corrective feedback. Criticism of their behavior will be ignored. They will deflect blame and often place it right back on you. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they will find a scapegoat to justify their behaviors. If you belabor the point, they will discard you, or get angry with you to bully you into submission. (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid)
Unless there is something in it for them, you’re on your own. The selfish do not compromise or freely give anything away. They pretend to be your friend to get what they want. Lies, exaggerations, talking behind your back, and telling the boss how you are messing up, are all ways they use to get ahead. There’s no loyalty unless for a short time it is a way to a goal they want. (15 traits of selfish people (and how to handle them) - Mindful Cupid)
There have been some interesting conversations around these self-examination questions. In answering our first question, “Do I tell the truth?” a fine line was brought into focus. Is it OK to tell a lie to protect someone? There is a line from the movie A Few Good Men, “The truth, you can’t handle the truth.” If we seek a general rule to apply to a specific situation, we most likely will fall into error. With this in mind, here’s a guideline. When I refuse to tell the truth is it for a selfish reason? If so, then don’t tell it. If somehow you gain from a lie, it’s behavior inconsistent with discipleship. Gosh, is there such a thing as a well-intentioned lie? Would you want to be kept from the truth because someone else judged that you can’t handle the truth? I think I would rather be told the truth even if it is a hard truth. Honesty is the best policy.
Now granted, we all need some “me time.” We all need a vacation, that change of scenery to refresh ourselves. We all need spiritual retreats. We all treat ourselves from time to time to something we enjoy. We also have goals that we want to reach and tasks that we want to accomplish. Doing such things does not necessarily mean you are selfish by nature. You still care about others, you have empathy for them, “you feel their pain,” you have compassion for them, “you put your feet and hands to your prayers to help.” You don’t use people, you don’t manipulate, instead, you invest in what is mutually beneficial.
Selflessness is depicted in the scripture as the way disciples of Jesus are to live.
I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
“…encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Selflessness is the mindset that the greater good is what is most important. To achieve the best situation for everyone you are willing to forgo what you want to do which is beneficial for the group.
Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Selflessness sets an example for others to follow. You go out of your way to help, that is a living example of love and doing a living example of a good deed. Creating this kind of culture benefits everyone involved.
Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourself.
Selflessness understands that what goes around comes around. By considering others just as important as you consider yourself you understand the greatest disciple of Jesus is the one who is the servant to other disciples. Again imagine how this works when there is mutual reciprocation. Harmony, unity, and peace, will be the result.
Egoism and selfishness go hand in hand. Egoism, your egoism, convinces you that you are the center of the universe. What is most important is your agenda, your desires, your wishes, and your wants. When you first believe God gives you the power to overcome egoism. In the scripture, egoism is referred to as the sinful nature, the sinful flesh, and the sinful self. You can simply understand it as “I am going to do what I want no matter what.” After God receives you as your own this disposition becomes one of the biggest struggle areas in your life. You want to do well, you want to be a good disciple, at times you are and can be commended but there are other times that your actions question if you’ve been changed or not. Sometimes your best intentions get hijacked, and you find yourself doing what you don’t want to do, or failing to do what you know is right. This is because of a battle of motivations. The Holy Spirit conflicts with your egoism. It’s up to you who is going to win the conflict. If you see this conflict raging within you, other-centeredness colliding with self-centeredness, Christ-centered with self-centeredness, you can ask God to change your heart, biblically the “command and control” center of your life. You discover that even though you have bent the knee in loyalty to God there is still a rebellion within. If this is your realization, then confess it, change always starts with realizing you have a problem and bringing it to God for redemption. Surrender again your life, the scripture calls this consecration, dedicating your entire being to God’s will and God’s way, to be used for God’s purposes. Think of it as a more enlightened commitment than when you first gave yourself to God, a more informed commitment. Ask God to rectify your thinking, your ways, and your heart. The Holy Spirit will fill you anew and cancel the power of egoism to hijack your righteous desires. Now you will have the power to say no to egoism when tempted. Now you will be able to sacrifice yourself for the greater good. Now you will be able to fully love others even as you love yourself. In the Church of the Nazarene, we call this experience entire sanctification. Our 4 Square friends call it being baptized with the Holy Spirit, our Baptist brothers and sisters call it being total dedication to God, and our more liturgical family members, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Catholics call it consecration. Whatever you call it. this is the second work of grace that empowers you to daily crucify egoism and choose to live a devout and holy life. If you want to explore this gift in more detail, I am available for a conversation. If it sounds good to you right now, ask God to sanctify you through and through so that the most important thing in your life is that you are a lover. You will notice the change within. The validation of this experience will be in your behavior.
We come to the end of our self-examination. We’ve asked the hard questions: test. “Am I Truthful? Am I Honest? Am I Pure? Am I easily offended? Am I selfish?” When you answer yes, or you are in the process of the refiner’s fire unhappy with your answer, desiring to overcome every obstacle so that you can say yes, then Christ is in you. You have passed the test.
If you answer no, deal with it through confession, repentance, and refining your behavior. I catch myself falling short in these areas from time to time and when I do, I feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me what I did is not right, and that I need to do something to make it right. The fact that I realize that I have sinned is a sign that Christ is in me, calling me to live a devout and holy life. The fact that I do something to change my behavior is a sign that Christ is in me.
Don’t allow religion to fool you. Doctrinal belief, reciting a sinners prayer, and following certain rules are insufficient. Everything rises and falls on relationships. When you are right with God, you are a lover, doing everything you can to be right with others.