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Respectable Sin #6: Selfishness

April 30, 2008

(Sixth in a series of my thoughts on the book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges)

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Selfishness is a tricky thing, the author says. It’s very easy to see it in other people, but with ourselves, it’s a little more difficult to spot. Why? Well, for one reason, “we can be very learned in our theology or very upright in our morality and yet fail to display the gracious qualities of Christian character that Paul called the fruit of the spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).”

He goes on to pinpoint four different types of selfishness that may be observed in believers:

  1. Selfishness with our interests, which he defines as the tendency to be so interested in our own affairs that we have little or no interest in the affairs of others. If we talk at length about the things that interest us without giving the person we’re speaking with an opportunity to do the same, then we are being insensitive and selfish. He suggests that we reflect on our conversations with others after they have happened and ask ourselves how much time we spent talking about our interests compared with how much time we spent listening to the other person. He cites Philippians 2:4, a verse I have taped on my computer monitor to remind me that I need to spend more time focusing outward rather than inward.
  2. Selfishness with time. This one makes me a little uncomfortable because I feel like I never have enough time. I am direct when I speak and I expect others to be the same way, not wasting time (mine or theirs) with vagueness. The author points out that not only can we be selfish with our time, we can also be selfish by unduly imposing on another person’s time (e.g., asking someone to do work for us that we could do ourselves). He also states that this type of selfishness can most frequently be seen in the home, pointing out that there is seldom any expression such as “I’ll take care of that for you.” The attitude of “it isn’t my job” prevails; however, Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear one another’s burdens.
  3. Selfishness with our money. This isn’t just a problem among believers, my friends. The author rightly points out that while Americans give generously in times of great need (Hurricane Katrina and the south Pacific tsunami, for example), when it comes to routine giving, we fall way short, on average giving just 2% of our income to charitable and religious causes. This is just plain wrong. Every dollar we receive ultimately comes from God. We are not owners of that money, we are stewards of that money. As a result, we should not be selfish and consume most or all of it ourselves.
  4. Inconsiderateness. This is simply defined as not thinking about the impact of one’s actions on others. For instance, people who are habitually late and keep others waiting. (Those of you who know me know I am restraining myself from editorializing on this point!) Another example is someone who talks loudly on their cell phone, disturbing others nearby. But in essence, we are being inconsiderate any time we do not think about the impact of our actions on others.

He ends the chapter with the following instruction and challenge:

Living unselfishly will likely not cost us our lives, but it will cost. It will cost time and money. It will cost becoming interested in the interests, concerns and needs of others. And it will cost in learning to be considerate of the emotions and feelings of others…. It would be good to ask other family members to point out any tendencies toward selfishness that they see in us. And we should do this without becoming defensive or retaliating by bringing up selfishness in the other person. And then we should genuinely repent of our various sins of selfishness and begin to pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to deal with those selfish traits.

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2 comments

  1. So, I was actually searching for something in particular and was “accidentally” directed to this blog entry. God is so good! I was blessed by your blog entries and wanted to subscribe, but can’t find the subscribe info. I also don’t recall what I was searching for or why when I came across your blog (hopefully going back to Google will remind me, but no guarantees). Since God works through accidents, I’m going to take this accident to heart and be a new regular visitor. Thank you for your blog, thank you for being sensitive to God’s leading in giving you this ministry.


  2. You know, I’m not even reading the book, but I’m cut deeper by that Spiritual Sword everytime you share. Cut that out!! No seriously, thank you for distilling your impressions into managable bit sizes for the spiritual babies like me. I need all the help….Did I mention I never actually finish these kinds of studies? Sigh.



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