I remember that when I was in Boy Scouts our troop would participate in the Toys for Tots program. We would collect toys to give to families that could not afford to buy Christmas presents to their children. It was always heartwarming to see the gratefulness of a child receiving a gift that wouldn't have otherwise, but unfortunately those aren't always the memories that stick out the most in my mind.
As part of our service we would take boxes of toys and carry them out to the cars of the parents coming to pick them up. All too often I remember how angry I was to be putting a box of toys in a nice, expensive car with either a fancy, blaring sound system or a floorboard littered with cigarette butts and beer cans. These parents weren't so poor that they couldn't afford those items which made they themselves happy.
Virtually all sins are self-seeking in nature. Unfortunately, many people today choose to live a life that is all about themselves. The attitude of these people is that is the primary focus in my life is ME.
Through the course of this lesson I would like to focus on various self-serving sins found in accounts from the Bible and the consequences thereof.
Selfishness: Lot chooses the better land for himself
We read the story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot, in Genesis 13. Lot traveled with Abraham from to Canaan and to and from Egypt. At one point, Abraham and Lot had such large herds of livestock that their herdsmen fought over land for them to occupy. So Abraham suggested that Lot and he should separate and divide the land. Abraham gave Lot first choice and Lot took this opportunity to choose the better land for himself which was more fertile and near the Jordan River. This left Abraham with the rocky hill country. But, as we read in Genesis 13:12, Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom.” Even though Lot got the better land for himself, he was going to suffer for his selfish decision. Later on, Lot was taken captive during battle in the land and had to be rescued by Abraham and later, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot lost not only his home, but also his wife. We recall that Lot’s wife, despite being warned to not look back at Sodom, did so and was turned into a pillar of salt.
1 Corinthians 10:24 - Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being
Jealousy/Hatred: Joseph’s Brothers
Another way in which people serve themselves is to give in to feelings of envy and jealousy which leads to hatred and sinful acts of aggression, regardless of the harm it causes to others.
We recall the story of Joseph and his brothers: Joseph was the youngest of Israel’s sons and the most loved. Because of their father’s favoritism, Joseph’s brothers hated him. (Genesis 37:4 - But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.)
Later on, Joseph began having dreams of greatness over his brothers, which angered them even more and increased their feelings of resentment and hatred. One day Joseph was sent by his father to check on his brothers who were tending to the flock. As Joseph approached, his brothers plotted against him and decided to kill him and they cast him into a pit. Reuben tried to talk his brothers out of killing Joseph, and when some traders came by, the brothers decided to make a profit by selling Joseph as a slave. Once Joseph was gone, the brothers covered up their deed by making it look as if he had been attacked by a wild animal, taking his tunic, dipping it in blood and showing it to their father.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22 - You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. Jesus tells us not to give a place to anger because anger leads to hatred. That hatred is murder in the heart.
Adultery/Fornication: David takes Bathsheba for himself
Jesus also spoke of adultery’s beginnings in the heart in Matthew 5:27-28 - You have heard it said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Shortly after David became the king of Israel his army was at battle while he remained in Jerusalem. One night he looked from his rood and saw a beautiful woman bathing. He found out that this woman was Bathsheba, the wife Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s soldiers. David took Bathsheba and lay with her. Later, Bathshaba told David that she was pregnant with his child. David tried several time to cover up his sin by bringing Uriah home from battle in hopes that he would be with his wife and think that the child was his. But when his plan didn't work, David devised a plan to have Uriah killed. David had Uriah put on the front lines of battle and told his general to have the rest of the troops withdraw, leaving Uriah to die.
This greatly displeased God and He sent Nathan to David, who confronted him about his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
Nathan told David that because of what he had done the rest of his life would be filled with adversity. The child of Bathsheba and David was struck ill and died. Later, Absolom, one of David’s sons, would go to war against David and try to overthrow his rule.
We cannot serve God while serving the lusts of the flesh. Galatians 5:16-17 I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Greed/Betrayal: Judas betrays Jesus for Money
1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Judas was one of Jesus’ apostles and was even entrusted with being a treasurer. But Judas had his own agenda and was planning to betray Jesus. Judas met with the Chief Priests and made a deal. He agreed to betray Jesus for a reward of thirty pieces of silver. Later, when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas approached Jesus with a multitude armed with swords and clubs. Judas kissed Jesus which was a signal to the multitude and they took Jesus away. Judas realized what he had done and that Jesus was going to be put to death, he tried to give the money he received for his evil deed back. When the Chief priests wouldn't accept the blood money, Judas went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-5).
Proverbs 1:10-19 speaks of greed, betrayal and murder: My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, “Come with us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; Let us swallow him alive like Sheol, and whole like those who go down to the Pit; We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse” - My son , do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread In the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood, They lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.
Dishonesty: Peter lies to save himself
In Matthew 26 Jesus was being taken to the high priest, the first of many mock trials that would ultimately lead to his crucifixion. Peter followed Him at a distance and ended up sitting with some servants to watch. Several of the servants thought they recognized Peter as a disciple of Christ and asked him about his association with Jesus. Peter had to have been frightened, for his life, knowing that Jesus was being marched to His death, so he decided to lie to save himself. Peter denied Jesus three times, claiming that he didn't even know Him and even cursed to stress his point to those around him.
Matthew 26:69-75 - Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
Those who deny Jesus will be denied by Jesus on the Judgement day. Matthew 10:32-33- Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
How often do we deny Jesus in our own lives through the activities that we engage in, through the words we say, through the bad example we set and through our failure to spread His Word?
A Final Thought on a Life Spent in Service to Self
I read a book once that talked about some of the most common objections to Christianity. Probably the most common is that people do not understand how a loving God could send anyone to Hell. But if you think about it, when a person chooses to sin, they themselves are choosing to separate themselves from God.
We know that sin is offensive to God, so much to the point that He can’t stand the sight of it.
Isaiah 59:1-2 - Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Basically, when we make the choice to sin, we make the choice to be separated from God. Therefore, it should be no surprise that God gives us what we want. Those that spend their lives seeking to be separated from God will get just that. Hell is a place that is totally removed from God. God will not be there.
The Alternative: A Life of Self-Denial in Service to God
As we have seen, a self-seeking is ultimately an empty life. If we are constantly striving to please ourselves, we will find life’s temporary pleasures to be fleeting.
Instructions to early Christians: Philippians 2:3-4 - Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but for the interests of others.
In order to serve God and follow Jesus, we must deny ourselves. Matthew 16:24-27 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
1 Peter 4:1 -2 - Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
A Christian should honestly be able to say the following: Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.
Jesus gave His life for us, and all He asks in return is that we give our life to Him.