Nehemiah 5 is the background for the message. This is a prime example of greed and selfishness. The nobles and rulers were so greedy they disregarded the word of God. As we saw last week, it was all right to loan and charge interest to a non-Jew but they could not charge interest to a fellow Jew. You can never violate the teachings of God and expect to be blessed. They wanted to get farther ahead. A win-win philosophy is good, but we see too much “I win; you lose”. In sports not everybody can win. There has to be a loser.
We tend to categorize sin and put it in different groups. We say this is worse than this. God condemns all sin. Webster defines selfishness as an act of caring unduly for one’s own comfort, often at the expense of others. The question to many people is “what am I going to get out of it?” Man is ruled by the law of self interest, but what does God say? Selfishness is a sin. First Corinthians 6:9-10 says: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. Paul uses the word “covetous” as a form of selfishness and God places it among the sins listed in those verses.
God’s people are to be looking out for each other. It’s often easy to weep with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice–well, we have trouble with that. Sometimes it’s a little hard to look at others when they get ahead and rejoice with them. In Luke 12 we see the story of the rich man who had so much he tore down his barns and built greater barns. He used the word “me” five times in just a few verses. His problem was that he left God out. God said the man was a fool. I won’t call another person a fool. Only God can do that. But it is foolish to leave God out of our lives.
Selfishness brings a loss of life and property. There are many examples in the Bible. Israel lost the battle with the little country of Ai. They lost 36 men that day. Why? Achan got selfish and kept spoils of Jericho when he was not supposed to keep anything for himself. He was motivated by greed and selfishness. Ananias and Sapphira got selfish and lied to God. Both of them died for their lies. Selfishness bleeds the work of God. Nabal didn’t want to give his food to King David. He had a “my” problem too. God killed him. Don’t be greedy. Don’t let selfishness be your characteristic. It brings trouble in church. People are easily offended. They want a pat on the back. We shouldn’t be like this. It brings defeat in our spiritual life. Most of us want to be victorious, but it won’t come to a selfish person. Look at Abraham and Lot. Abraham gave Lot his choice of land. Why? He knew with God he’d still come out all right. Look what happened to Lot. In his selfishness he saw the fertile lands toward Sodom and chose them. Then he ended up in that wicked city and apparently was on the town council. He would have died in the destruction of the city if not for Abraham.
Selfishness is not incurable. Zacchaeus was a wicked tax collector until he met Jesus. He vowed to restore money to those he had stolen from. The disciples were selfish men until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They gave it all up to serve Jesus. Do you want to be cured of selfishness? Confess it. We have to daily submit to God. We fail everyday. Set before yourself the vision of the person you’d like to be. Work toward that. Often we find ourselves like Paul. We want to do this or that but don’t because evil is always present. Ask God to help you.
Be unselfish. Be gracious. Be kind and loving. It won’t cost you a thing. With God it is not impossible. Ask him to help you be that person who is kind, gracious, loving and unselfish.