When my kids attended the Wild’s of New England one year, they were asked to do a simple exercise entitled “List 75 Ways I’m Selfish.” This was a private exercise to be done in their quiet time, and was a tool for self-evaluation and change.
Think of ways you’re selfish. If you’re a teen, maybe your answers would be things like:
- leaving my cups and plates all around the house
- not doing my chores
- speaking hurtfully to a sibling, room mate, or friend
- not sharing what you have
- wanting praise on FB or Instagram and being deflated when I don’t get it.
- moodiness when crossed
If you’re a mom, your list might look like this:
- snapping at the kids when your “quiet tolerance level” has been crossed
- expecting your husband to help you more than you help him, being lazy in service to others
- spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need
- expecting people to notice and appreciate all you’ve done
- pouting when you don’t get help around the house
If you’re a ministry wife, maybe selfishness looks like this:
- being possessive with positions, people, or programs
- being hurt when people don’t include you
- being touchy when your way is crossed
- getting offended when your husband fails to keep you in the loop
- pushing your own agenda because of your perceived rights
- inserting yourself into ministries you’re not gifted to perform
Selfishness is sin because it violates the summary of the OT commandments given by Jesus: love God first and your neighbor as yourself.
Selfishness is the antithesis of the servant-minded focus we’re called to.
Selfishness also violates Matthew 7:12
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Notice that this commandment is not stated in the negative: don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you. That would be easy. I’m not going to steal, punch, defraud, or slander another person because I wouldn’t want that done to me or my family. The negative would mean to live and let live. Leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone.
But that’s not it at all. This command, and all its implications, is stated in the positive. “Whatever you wish others would do to you, do to them.” THIS takes supernatural Spirit-filling. THIS is how we change our homes, relationships, and churches.
It’s about turning selfishness on its head, thinking ahead (kindness), and giving honor, support, respect, love, and special treatment to someone else. It’s all about pro-active love and preference.
This treatment is not just for your family or inner circle. This treatment is for your neighbor, the person who is unlovable, and the person who is your enemy.
Matthew Henry states that Christ’s example is our example:
Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; not only toward God, but toward men; not only toward those of our party and persuasion, but toward men in general, all with whom we have to do.
I wonder if our failure to love others as we would enjoy being treated is why our homes, communities, and churches are so weak and fractured and why our relationships are often brittle. Perhaps it’s due to disobedience or neglect to the most basic of all Christ’s teachings on love.
We pride ourselves in pure teaching from the pulpit, but teaching that does not impact a person on the human level is really useless. Your “religion” is tested in the arena of human interactions.
But perhaps our biggest failure to love is a sin of omission, withholding good when it is in our power to do it.
“What would I like done to me?”–this is the prototype for our behavior.
So, take that selfish list, and flip it on its head.
- If I’d like others to be thoughtful and considerate to me, I must set out to be thoughtful and considerate to others.
- I love it when someone drops me a note of appreciation, so I should set out to recognize, appreciate and encourage others.
- I love it when people think of me and pick something small up for me, like a coffee, so I’ll show my love by doing the same.
- If I’d enjoy help around the house, I must set out to help others around the house.
- If I’d appreciate it when people to give me the benefit of the doubt, I must set out to give others the benefit of the doubt.
It doesn’t matter if you get these things in return. The blessing comes in obedience.
Christ is our example. He always did the will of His Father. He came to serve worthless, ungrateful humans who didn’t end up doing anything but killing Him in the end.But He rose in power and has given us newness of life so that we can walk like Him. Through the Spirit’s leading and empowerment, we can do this.
What good things would you want done to you? Think about it, jot it down, and, armed with that knowledge, begin treating others that way.
If you are discouraged by the treatment you’ve received this week, let those feelings of mistreatment prompt you to recognize how you want to be treated, and give you guidance about how you’ll treat others, so they don’t have to experience what you’ve experienced.Be the one to look outward and treat others the way you wish you’d been treated.
Imagine what a catalyst for change this could be in your community!