The Sin of Selfishness

I am memorizing Philippians 2:3,4 which says,

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 interests, but also look out for the interests of others.”

selfishNow I have read this verse many times. I am sure I have heard sermons on it, although none specifically come to mind. I have also studied the book of Philippians, and yet there is nothing like trying to memorize a verse, to repeat it over and over in your mind, to have it hit you over the head with it’s truth.

I mean seriously, as I am reading it, writing it, saying it out loud all of a sudden it hits me. I. AM. SELFISH. Selfishness rises up in me every single day. There is no sugar coating. No excuses. It stares me right in the face. It oozes from my heart, my attitudes, and my actions. The sin of selfishness.

The other thing this verse talks about is “empty conceit”, but what does that mean? Is it different than selfishness? According to the dictionary conceit means, “too much pride in your own worth or goodness.” It is an exalted view of ourselves and our own importance.

Empty conceit means I am consumed with thoughts about me. My world revolves around me. It means I will be preoccupied with myself.

“Empty Conceit literally means “vain glory”, "empty praise" or "hollow opinion" all describing in essence something which has an appearance but lacks the reality. It is a graphic description of the glory this world affords us which to the natural man appears "beautiful" and desirable, but which is literally devoid of any good or any eternal value.It is a passion for empty personal glory which contrasts sharply with humility.”1

Here are a few things that came to mind as I meditated on these verses:

  1. I often look out for my own interest before the interests others.
  2. If I am looking out for my own interests than surely I believe I am more important.
  3. I do often think about myself. My thoughts are about me and what affects me.
  4. If my thoughts are often consumed of self how can I think of others?

It is easy to get caught up in the sin of selfishness. After all the world tells us we should take time for ourselves. We should do for ourselves. We often hear that it’s okay to take care of ourselves before taking care of others. Follow our own dreams and desires, sometimes at the expense of our children and marriages. But these are lies.

God says I am to put others interest before my own. God says that I am to view others as more important than myself. These truths are the total opposite of the messages we often hear from the world.

While the sin of selfishness does not describe me 24/7 it certainly does rear it’s ugly head almost every day. So how do I change? How do I begin to think of others before thinking of self?

First we must come before God and acknowledge our sin. Confess it. Then ask His Spirit to help us die to our own selfish desires and put others before ourselves.

Then the easiest (yet hardest) way is to actually live it out is to step out in obedience and begin serving others regardless of your feelings. Make choices that put others first. Look for opportunities to serve your children, husband, friends and neighbors without expecting ANYTHING in return. I believe that as we put into practice what Philippians 2:3 and 4 says we will find our selves doing it out of a genuine desire to serve.

And finally a disclaimer. When we put others needs and interests before our own we are not talking about taking care of our basic needs. If I do not rest, eat and exercise properly then I am not going to be any use to anyone. The problem comes when we begin to believe that we deserve more than this and begin to pursue our interests (desires) above serving others.

I don’t know about you, but I have been convicted, challenged and humble by the word of God today and I have some heart work to do…. 


1 Precept Austin; Philippians 2:3-4 Commentary:

jesus on the cross[4]

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