I think it is important to distinguish the difference between the love that reflects the character of God and carnal, emotional love. The world’s idea of love is actually based on selfishness. It is the love we see on television shows and movies. This type of love is born out of emotions and is always looking for a reward, payback, or recognition. It says, “I’ll love you as long as you do this for me. As long as things feel good, I will love you.” It has strings attached. Unfortunately, because it is selfish and carnal, it quickly fades when it doesn’t get its way.
One of the most familiar scenarios where emotional, selfish love is demonstrated is in marriage relationships. I believe one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high today is because people are getting married without a true understanding of what love really is. Instead, they are coming into the relationship with fantasies, false expectations, and most of all selfishness. They do not realize love is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision to love according to God’s example gives us the ability to remain committed to our marriages, regardless of how we feel. Selfishness can be defined as being “concerned excessively with oneself without regard for others,” self-centered; self-seeking.
The selfish person is the one who is living for himself and fulfilling his own interests, whether or not those interests coincide with God’s will or not. He is more concerned with obtaining what he wants and desires. The selfish person is completely focused on pleasing himself at any cost.
Selfishness is rooted in fear. Therefore, selfish individuals are fearful people. Selfishness is a result of the deeply rooted fear they have of coming up short in some area. They become easy prey for the enemy as they get into what I call “self-preservation.” Instead of trusting God to provide for their needs in a particular area, they trust in their own abilities. They think they know a better way, which is their own way. Selfish people fear they may somehow be taken advantage of or end up on the losing end of the deal. Consequently, they become protective of the little they do have and try to hold on to it for dear life.
Selfishness is not limited to only the material realm. Usually, when we think of a selfish person, we get the picture of someone who is stingy with his or her personal belongings. While this is a common area of selfishness, a person can be selfish emotionally as well. Not wanting to give of your time or not wanting to help someone in need is just as reflective of selfishness as not sharing your material resources. Any time you are solely focused on yourself in any area, selfishness is involved.
Galatians 5:19–21 describes the works of the flesh, which are the results of selfishness. Sexual sin, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, strife, and a host of other behaviors are all built on a platform of selfishness, which is why these things are often so difficult to give up. Wherever you find selfishness, you will find protectiveness over those areas that are pleasurable. When we are selfish, we want to preserve what makes us feel good, even though our habits and actions may be hurting us and other people. Selfish people cannot see past the present moment or the big picture.
Can you locate selfishness in the way you think, speak, and act toward others? Are your fleshly desires hindering your spiritual growth? Everyone has room to improve. As I have studied on God’s love, I began to see how the selfish acts described in Galatians 5:19–21 can actually be counteracted with the fruit of the Spirit—love. It takes a conscious decision. Every sin and work of the flesh can be linked back to selfishness, which can be cancelled by releasing the love of God. There is no selfishness in love.”
Rev. Scotty Dingess is pastor of West Logan Church of God and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.