Paul gives the reason of why we shouldn’t be self-seeking a little further down in this Chapter. In verse 33 he writes, “For I’m not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” When I’m trying to further my own interests and desires, my attention is on myself, not others. Thus what happens is my selfishness blinds me to the needs of people around me. After 40 years in the Nursing profession, one thing I always taught was that a good Nurse filled the needs of her patients…but an excellent Nurse looked for and anticipated her patient’s needs with skilled foresight. It’s easy to look out for our own interests…we’re pretty much hard-wired to do that. But what’s more difficult is to set down our own agenda to build up our fellow man.
The world tells us to do whatever will make us happy at the moment. We’re also encouraged to look out for #1…and that the desire for immediate gratification is normal. But Christians are not called to do what makes us happy…we are called to do what glorifies God. Honoring God in whatever we do will quickly strip away all of our selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered ambitions and behaviors, for we will take on a servant’s heart. And servant-hood is all about others…not about self.
This verse goes totally against the consumer-driven, materialistic culture we live in today. We’re told we deserve to treat ourselves to “things”…and that the more the better. And so we amass possessions to feed the ever growing selfish needs and desires we have. But collecting and accumulating “things” will never fill the void inside us that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can fill. For in Job 20:20 it tells us that we can’t be saved by our treasures.
What does denying self really look like? In this verse it means giving up our right to our-self…of becoming more like Jesus and less like ourselves. It’s refusing to allow our carnal nature to rule and reign on the throne of our life. But it’s even more basic than that. You can be saved, but not be a disciple. For discipleship means we have to first strip away pride and selfishness…rejecting our flesh to become more in the image of Christ. The Great Commission of Jesus is to, “Go make disciples…” But we can’t make disciples if we ourselves are not one first.
Later in the Bible, the Apostle Paul admonished the Church in Philippi to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) This has to be one of the toughest things to do given mankind’s self-centered, egotistic nature. Instead of seeking out our own 15 minutes of fame, we need to be trying to outdo one another in showing honor. Rather than demanding respect, we need to be recognizing others and praising them for important work they’re doing. Vanity looks for fame and glory, while humility moves “self” off the throne as we esteem others.
The selfish human nature is always striving for the liberty of self-determination. “I want to do what I want, when I want to”, is our mindset. But with that enticement comes deception and seduction as we wander farther and farther off the right path. And sooner or later, we find ourselves in the middle of perversion, and wonder just how we got ourselves into such a mess. In the search for freedom, we have instead become a piece of property…owned and controlled by depravity and lies.
Where does your allegiance lie? Do you hold firmly to your “things”…your material possessions…your earthly goods at the detriment of your Christian walk? If you’ve been worshipping at the altar of retail shopping…has money and wealth now become your god? The contrast between selfish love and the love of Christ couldn’t be farther apart and more difficult to admit to in our own lives…but Jesus is also very plain in this scripture that we cannot serve both Him and money…For our loyalty can only be to one master.
Can you echo these same words that John the Baptist declared about Jesus and himself? What then is it that hinders us from making such a sweeping statement? In a single word – pride. Our selfish agenda pushes us to plunge ahead without God’s direction first. Our willful pride orchestrates our own plans, devoid of the Lord’s guidance. We want to remain on the throne of our life, rather than yielding to God. So what are we so afraid of? Are we fearful that as God increases in our life, our own personal identity will diminish to the point we’ll disappear? In a single word -Yes! But isn’t that what becoming a Christ Follower is all about? Our goal is to become less, as God becomes more. So how can we do this? It takes a conscious act of our Will and a yielding of our pride to allow the Lord to increase within us. And it also takes these words…”Yes, Lord. I ask for more of You and less of me.”