Selfishness Destroys Relationships

Selfishness Destroys Relationships

A little boy and girl were both riding on a rocking horse. As you can imagine, it was a struggle for both of them to stay on the horse at the same time. Finally, the little boy said, “There would be more room for us to ride—if you would get off.”

A selfish spirit is a spirit that only cares about the unholy trinity: ME, MYSELF, and I! A selfish spirit is an insecure spirit. It wants significance—but it is afraid of what people may be thinking about it. At the same time, it is fearful of being ignored and afraid of getting hurt. Therefore, it tries to control everything and everyone around ME, MYSELF, and I.

Once this insidious spirit establishes a stronghold in a person’s life, it can drag that person down a dangerous path of destruction. A selfish spirit has destroyed many marriages, families, and lives.

When we allow a selfish spirit control, we are not controlled by the Holy Spirit. Instead of living by the Truth, we live by what we think, what we feel, what we want, and what we fantasize—not what is reality. When we are ruled by selfishness, we will rationalize and justify anything and everything to fulfill our selfish desires and calm our fears.

Consider how selfishness threatened relationships in Mark 9:33-34 And they came to Capernaum. And when he [Jesus] was in the house he asked them [the disciples], “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

Why were the disciples silent? Why didn’t these men, who were close to Jesus, answer Jesus? A selfish spirit is often associated with a spirit of pride, causing a person to build a wall of silence in a relationship instead of openly humbling oneself and confessing sin.

When we are driven by a spirit of selfishness, we are be afraid of God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings conviction and that disturbs the spirit of selfishness. The Holy Spirit shows us our sin, which the spirits of selfishness and pride have kept hidden from us. Other people can see our sin, but these spirits have blinded us to it. If we don’t repent, the selfish spirit will cause us to retreat farther from God to protect self.

These spirits build a wall between ourselves and God, because sin separates us from God. We do not want Jesus to ask us what we are doing or saying. We do not want to admit we are wrong. And since God cannot walk in our darkness, nor with an evil spirit, we walk away from God. Selfishness destroys relationships, even our relationship with God.

Selfishness also destroys marriage relationships. A person with a spirit of selfishness thinks everything in the marriage is about him and his desires.

He does not want to discuss issues. He wants what he wants. If you point out the error of his way, he will argue and raise his voice, because he knows deep down, he is not right. He wants his way no matter what. He will not listen to any reasoning. If you don’t agree with him, then he says you don’t love him. Consequently, he will build a wall between anyone that gets in his way of fulfilling his selfish desires. Yes, selfishness destroys relationships, even with those who love us the most.

Therefore, when you don’t feel like talking to Jesus or to another person, it is a “red flag” that there is some selfishness, pride, or unforgiveness in your life that are about to destroy your relationship. Now, let’s see how Jesus responded to His selfish disciples.

Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The selfish ambitions of the Twelve were endangering their fellowship with each other and with Jesus. Even though they would not confess what they had been discussing, Jesus knew what it was. (He also knows what is in our soul.) These guys were full of selfish ambition. They were seeking glory. They wanted to be first. They wanted to be recognized. They wanted to be important.

Since they remained silent, Jesus sat down and called them to Himself. Instead of scolding them, Jesus simply tells them the profound Truth. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” This destroyed all their arguments for selfish ambition.

Then in verses 36-37 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Jesus is saying the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of everyone, including little children. It is not the preacher to tens of thousands of people in a stadium who is the greatest. The greatest is the person who humbly ministers one-on-one to the most insignificant individuals. He is also ministering to the Father and the Son (Matt 25:40).

Jesus spoke on servanthood often because He knew selfish ambition was a problem for us. At the Last Supper, Jesus shows the Twelve who is the greatest by washing their feet.

John 13:12-17 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

A selfish spirit tells you to put yourself first, do what you want, make your own way. But Jesus says the way of greatness and blessings is through serving others.

When we are selfish, we value things and use people. We gravitate toward people who will help us to get what we want, and we will ignore folks who do not help us to fulfill our desires. When we focus on self, we forget that God has called us to love Him and others, the greatest of all Commandments. Selfishness will even cause us to forget what love is!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is true love. Notice all the action. Desires are not included. Desires are often tainted with selfishness. “I love you” means “I want something from you”.

If we are going to make progress in loving others like this, we have to start with an honest assessment of ourselves. The first step to dealing with a problem is to admit we have the problem. So the first step in dealing with selfishness is to admit that we are selfish. All of us are affected by the subtle spirit of selfishness. Yes, all of us! We are born with it!

Consider this simple illustration – Suppose you are in a group photo. The first time you see the photograph, where do you look? You look at yourself, right? And if you look good, do you like the picture? Of course. If you don’t look good, do you want the photographer to take another? You hope he will, right? Now, what if you are the only one who looks good, do you still like the picture? (If you ask for a copy of it, then you’ve got a real bad case of selfishness.)

Selfish people see everything through self. The unspoken motto of the selfish person is: “It’s all about me!” Therefore, he does not give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes 5:18). If the plane is late or the traffic is slow, it upsets a selfish person. The weather, the music, the worship styles, the decorations, the ministry, everything is filtered through self. And if anything doesn’t please a selfish person, he grumbles and complains. If he can’t have his way, he won’t participate.

One of the greatest reasons that people are unhappy is bad relationships. It is true that when you are having relationship problems everything else seems to fall apart. One of the greatest causes of bad relationships is selfishness. It's the source of unhappiness and conflict in our home, school, church, and work. Oftentimes, the selfish one is us.

James 4:1-3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

So how can we keep selfishness from ruining our lives and destroying our relationships? How can we have a love that is not selfish?

The answers to these questions are this: We need to humbly ask God to show us our selfishness. We must not defend ourselves or excuse ourselves. We must confess our sin of selfishness and ask those we have offended to forgive us. This will break the strongholds that selfishness and pride have on us. We also need to ask our Heavenly Father for His forgiveness and for His grace to die to self and to follow Jesus. After that, don’t try to be unselfish in your own strength! Go to the Father daily for His grace and ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is unselfish love.

Philippians 2:1-8 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition 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. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Real love and real greatness come from loving others and putting them first. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s why we need to be filled with His Spirit and follow Him. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. It wasn’t all about Him. He was more interested in us, and what needed to be done for us.

Jesus Christ was the most unselfish person who ever walked the face of this earth. He gave His life unselfishly for others. Jesus had no insecurity or fear from being the servant of all. He did not let what others thought about Him influence what He did. Jesus knew who He was and He was secure in His position. His purpose was to say and do the Father’s will. Therefore, He was willing to humble Himself and take the place of a servant, and to take our punishment and suffering upon Himself.

Notice the language. Jesus willingly chose to empty Himself and become a servant. These are choices. These are acts of the will. We can make those same choices if we obey His Holy Spirit.

Love is faithful. Love is faithful to God and faithful in relationships. Genuine love doesn’t bolt when things get tough. We don’t lose our faith in difficult times. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. For those who genuinely love God, difficult times are considered an opportunity to grow in faith and love.

People think they know what love is, but it’s impossible to understand genuine love without a relationship with Jesus Christ, because He’s the one who shows us what real love is. Jesus shows us that love is faithful, forgiving, sacrificial, and unselfish.

The only way to love God and to love others is to disown yourself and follow Jesus. That’s right, you don’t belong to yourself if you choose to follow Jesus and His teaching.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The only way to love God and to love others is to live an unselfish life. This means to live by the Truth and with the understanding that our identity is in Jesus Christ. We don’t really belong here. Our stuff isn’t ours. Even our bodies are not ours. Everything belongs to Jesus Christ. Everything.

It may seem strange; but in order to be happy, you have to make your life about loving God and loving others. That is the greatest commandment and the summation of God’s Word (Matthew 22:36-40).

And the only way to really love God and others is to disown yourself and follow Jesus. Unfortunately, it is impossible to do this without God’s grace, because we are born with a selfish spirit! To overcome the spirit of selfishness requires the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love. Therefore, seek God’s Spirit with all your heart!

If you realize the spirit of selfishness has been ruling your life, confess it to the Father and ask Him for deliverance from the spirit of selfishness and for grace to repent and to die to self. Ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit and for grace to follow Jesus.

The spirit of selfishness is afraid right now that you will respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading. You can overcome the spirit of selfishness and a spirit of fear by humbling yourself before the Lord (James 4:10). Just do what He is telling you to do right now.