How many times does a mother say,”Billy, share your toys with Bobby” or “Bobby, you musn’t grab toys from Billy like that”? As Billy and Bobby grow older, they learn that such obvious acts of selfishness are socially unacceptable, so their selfish acts become more subtle, but the problem is still there. Even after we become Christians, we still have the flesh that wars against the Spirit, and one of its expressions is selfishness. [Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 101-2.]
Bridges words certainly ring true. Kevin Luthardt’s book cover for Mine! boils selfishness down to a vivid picture. While Jesus tells us in Mark 10:15 that we are to have a childlike faith He does not tell us to have childlike sins. Maybe we don’t through tantrums like a child, yet as Bridges notes our actions grow more subtle.
Bridges goes on to address four areas in which selfishness manifests itself.
Boy is he right! I know a lot of people that are selfish in those categories. I cross paths with them everyday. There is one person in particular that I have to deal with daily. Some days are better than others, but he is always there. I think he waits on me. I know he waits on me. When I stand in front of the mirror first thing in the morning he is there starring at me.
Respectable sins become less respectable when faced head on. Even then it is easy to shift the focus away from self, especially, during a group discussion. This may be one of the subtle ways adults excuse themselves from such sins. Working through Respectable Sins has been great to help face such excuses and sins such as selfishness which I/we try to hide.
Excuses can actually be made by pointing out others’ sins in these areas as reason to not be selfless towards them. Just because someone else is selfish with their interests, time, money and is inconsiderate does not give a godly reason to do the same back to them. This can be very difficult, especially, in a society where personal merit is thought of very highly. Yet, the gospel models and accomplishes another way for Christians.
Christ did not give His life to undeserving sinners so they could perpetuate sin to one another.
As the Holy Spirit convicts of those tolerable sins I will try to keep these verses in mind in light of the gospel.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
Will you share your experience in dealing with such sins?