The different religions of the world have different narratives that best explain their origins. These narratives are supernatural, or even, superstitious in nature. This leads to the formation of beliefs of the people who believe their religion’s respective narrative. These narratives have characters that are either noble or ignoble. Interestingly, in the context of their narratives, it is possible to be perfect but have a certain degree of ignobility. This is exemplified by the mythological stories where gods act out of their own interest driven purely by selfishness. These “gods” have the tendency to exemplify self-centeredness and self-serving.
While it is arguable that this idea is subjective for one’s interpretation, it cannot be denied that these ideologies have attempted to confront the Christian teachings about who God is. But with careful examination of Scriptures, one can come to a conclusion that though God exists for Himself and that He fulfills His will and purpose for His own glory, there is no hint of selfishness or vanity. With the help of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, we will take a look at Divine Self-Interest.
One does not have to read through all of the Scriptures (though doing so would be beneficial to better understand the character of God) to know that the Bible is for man but all about God. From the first words of the first book of the Bible: “In the Beginning, God ..” to the last event of the last book where every tribe from every nation bows down before Him, one can easily conclude that the life of a believer revolves around God and Him alone. The Bible clearly teaches that God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of His fallen creation. We know from Scriptures that the more a believer aligns his life to the worship of God, the more he discovers his purpose and meaning. And the more he deviates or turns away from God, the more he loses his value and worth and ultimately his soul.
But with all the majestic truths about God’s character, the world still asks: Is God selfish? Those who have asked this question may not be aware of it, but this question attempts to put God in the same league as the gods of the world, or even worse, compare him to sinful human beings. Nevertheless, it merits a biblical answer because a genuine believer or a sincere seeker may ask: How can I trust God to take care of me when He is all about Himself? Is it true that God is selfish?
These question may have passed by our thoughts as we read our Bible and see passages like:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6
“You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do.”
2 Kings 17:36-37
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
1 Chronicles 29:11
These words make us think, why would God command all people to worship Him and Him alone? Doesn’t it sound selfish to demand such things from His creations? Isn’t this a bit too much to command everyone to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength?
What is Selfishness?
Before we answer these questions, it is important to remember that selfishness is defined by merriam-webster as: “seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others”
In other words, selfishness is a character that highlights oneself at the expense of others. All people would agree that selfishness is bent on pleasing the self regardless of subjecting people to suffering and pain. It is also important to remember that, if not all people would agree, that to focus on oneself by taking care of one’s well being is not selfish. Today, it is called “self-care”. So, what differentiates two people who are seeking after their welfare and well being? It is the means and the motivation behind the actions.
Let us take a look at the common scenarios of selfishness:
A father who left his wife and children to live with another woman and fulfill his old passions is considered selfish.
A student who would take advantage of his classmates to get the high grades he thinks he deserves is a selfish person.
Selfish is a government officer who resorts to receiving under-the-table transactions and manipulating the results of citizens’ important matters to get wealthy.
Selfishness roots from an excessive and exclusive concern about oneself. The motive of selfish acts is to receive something one person thinks he deserves. A selfish person thinks more highly of himself than he ought to. This causes him to view himself as more significant than others.
What is Divine Self-Interest?
The late RC Sproul wrote in His book “Moses and the Burning Bush”:
“He alone exists by His own power. No one made Him or caused Him. He exists in and of Himself. This is a quality that no creature shares. People are not self-existent; neither are cars or stars. Only God has the concept of self-existence.”
This is an important truth to understand in order to grasp the self-interest of God. Because He is the creator of everything and everything exists through Him and for Him, He has all the right to claim it as his own. Our human experience would attest that the person who has the absolute right of ownership over anything whether houses, cars, lands, businesses, etc. is the one who either created it or bought it. And we know that God did both for His creation.
In our finite minds, we may conceive God as being selfish for all that He demands from His creation. We might think that His interests are only for Himself. While it is true that God deserves all the glory and honor and praise, He is far to be considered selfish simply because He created and redeems all what we can see today.
The true opposite of being selfish and thinking highly of oneself is humility. Humility is acknowledging your worth and value just as you are. It is total freedom from pride and arrogance. Having an accurate view of oneself and one’s accomplishments is true humility. And if there is one thing we must consider of God, it is the fact that He is humble.
So the real concern we have in the question “Is God selfish?” is not His character but our perspective of who our God is. God is Almighty, All Powerful, and All Knowing. He has proven Himself faithful from the Word in the Bible to our daily lives. Knowing His worth gives us a deeper understanding why He alone deserves to be praised. What He demands from His people is what He actually deserves. It isn’t something that He demands out of an overestimated self-interest. He is who He is and He is faithful as His Word is.
Is God selfish? No, He isn’t. In fact, He is the most selfless being in the entire universe we could ever know. God is not selfish.
God’s Glory, our Good and the Gospel
How should we view these enormous concepts so that we would have a better grasp of God’s Divine Self-Interest? The answer is to go back and examine the message of the Gospel and John 3:16 is one of the best summaries of this Good News.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God is so selfless that He decided a long time ago to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. The motive is to save people who would put their trust in Him and in what He did for us on the Cross. He could’ve let us perish from our sins because we all deserve to pay for it for eternity. God could’ve brought judgment for all the disobedience and disloyalty of the past generations. He could’ve ended mankind right there and then. But He didn’t. Instead, He thought of the very people He created and loved. And even when we still remained in our sins, He fully decided to bring a sacrifice once and for all so that we could be restored back to Him, our Creator.
Oh how it must be painful for Him to look away as darkness fell on the day Jesus received the full punishment of sin. But the good news is He has risen! And this made a way for many to be reconciled to God. His selflessness results in life for eternity! God the Son, Jesus Christ, showed great humility for He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God did not just give us eternal life, but He made right our lives here on Earth. He did not just forgive our sins, but He also brings blessings we do not deserve: Grace. In the Gospel, we see that as God seeks His own glory, he does it by going after our good. The cross became the place where God gets the highest glory while doing it for our own good – for all eternity.
No one in this world is so loving, selfless and has the best interest for others than our God!
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