On being selfish

Stephen Nichols

One of the many lessons we're hoping our kids learn is the standard one on not being selfish.  A hard lesson for them, especially since I am so selfish my self.  We all are.  I was reminded of this yesterday during my pastor's sermon on Matthew 28, the last in his long series on the book.

I don't take the Great Commission seriously because I'm selfish, selfish with the gospel.  In his sermon Michael Rogers pointed out that the word nations is actually the word from which we get ethnic.  The idea is more likely peoples or people groups than the idea of the modern geo-political nation state.  But, just for a moment, it's worthwhile to think in terms of the nation-state of America.  We are selfish, consuming more of the world's resources per capita than any other people group or geo-political body.  Perhaps we are so selfish because we so enjoy our privileged lives, we have come to think we deserve what we have, and we have cultivated a habit of exclusion.  Who knows?  But what's worse is we are so selfish with the gospel. 

Listening to Michael's sermon reminded me of another one by Jonathan Edwards.  In a sermon on the signing of a treaty with the Mohawks, Edwards seized the moment to chastise his fellow countrymen.  We, he confessed, had hidden the gospel from you.  We, he continued, were lazy in proclaiming the gospel to you.  We, he concluded, had been selfish.  You can just imagine how the dignitaries in from Boston were sweating it out.  Then Edwards said, which to me is one of his most insightful comments, "We are no better than you in any respect."  Could it be that part of the reason that the colonials were so lackluster in their evangelism and missions is that they had a faulty view of themselves and of the nations, the ethne, all the peoples that God created upon this earth and has declared will have a place in the new earth?

Could it be that selfishness with the gospel has something to do with our inflated sense of who we are?  Selfishness it seems to me stems from a warped view of the self as more important, as deserving more, than others.  It's a horrible thought, but could it be that we are selfish with the gospel because we somehow think we deserve it more than others?

Michael Rogers made many intriguing observations on this well-worn text.  Here's one that stood out.  The church always flourishes when it is looking outward; it falters when it is looking inward.

No wonder it's hard to teach our kids not to be selfish.