Selfishness, when you think about it, seems to be one of man's greatest problems. To be delivered from it would seem to be man's greatest need. Everyone is plagued by it to a greater or lesser extent. Selfish desire doesn't have to be taught or learned...we possess it from birth. Children are classic examples of this. They instinctively know how to whine, pout and throw a temper tantrum to get what they want. Leave two of them in a room together and within thirty minutes the bigger one will have all the toys. Where did he learn this kind of behavior? The answer is nowhere. It is in his nature from birth, a side effect of the fall of man.
It is incredible how far men will go and what pain they will cause to get their way. Naboth, one of Israel's finest citizens, owned a lovely vineyard adjoining the palace complex. King Ahab wanted Naboth to sell this vineyard to him and when Naboth refused, the king was livid. In a terrible act of selfishness, Ahab had Naboth killed and took his land. The heartache, grief and pain that Naboth's family suffered was of no concern to the king. Fulfilling his own desires was all that mattered to him.
Selfishness is a boy saying, "I'll take my ball and go home if I can't pitch." It's an employer squeezing his employees for all he can get and paying them less than they are worth. It's a person with plenty refusing to help someone in need. It is the person who will assassinate another's character in order to succeed. Selfishness is the fountainhead from which all evil flows. It caused Satan to be cast out of heaven. It was Adam and Eve's ticket out of the Garden of Eden. It is the principle cause of every home breakup...every failed marriage. Because of it children are abused and the innocent are injured.
Jesus offered the solution when He said: "He that loveth his life (lives it for his own selfish purposes) shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for my sake the same shall find it." As strange as it may seem, the way up is down. The way to be first is to be last. The way to get is to give. Only as we die unto ourselves and devote our lives to Christ and others can deliverance from selfishness be achieved.
Little Mark was a young man who "got it" when it came to this issue of selfishness. Mark's teacher called in the middle of the afternoon. His mother answered the phone.
"Mrs. Smith, your son did something in class that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about it immediately." The mother grew worried. Her third-grader was usually well-behaved.
"Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching," the woman continued. "This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I told the story of the ant and the grasshopper." She recounted the story as she had in class:
"The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work. Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begins to beg, 'Please Mr. Ant, you have much food. Please let me eat, too.' Then I said, 'Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story.'
"Your son, Mark, raised his hand. 'Teacher, may I draw a picture?'
"I said, 'Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture. But first you must write the ending to the story.'
"As in all the years past, most of the students said that the ant shared his food through the winter and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. A few children wrote,' "No, Mr. Grasshopper. You should have worked in the summer. Now, I have just enough food for myself." So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.'
"But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever. He wrote, 'So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper. The grasshopper lived through the winter, but the ant died.' "And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses."
God's principle is a paradox. We gain our lives by losing it. The quality of life we enjoy and the happiness we bring to others will depend on the spirit by which we are dominated - Will it be the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of Christ, who gave His life that others might live? May we each have that same self-giving spirit. Or as the Apostle Paul so succinctly stated, "Let this attitude be in you that was in Christ Jesus..."
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. -- Philippians 2:3-4