[1 Corinthians 13:3-5]
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 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…”
TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Ephesians 2:4-8, NIV
I think my first instinct is to label self-seeking as selfishness. I’m familiar with the term and it’s fairly easy to recognize in the behavior of others… and yes, (FINE!) I can admit that it’s easy to recognize selfishness in my own heart. But I think there’s another way that we attempt to be loving and find ourselves surprised when the equation doesn’t quite work. We forget that entitlement is a symptom of being self-seeking. [Entitle: to give an enforceable right to claim something]
I think entitlement is hard to recognize because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The American Dream says if we work hard we deserve a big pay-off. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It sounds like the making of success. But I not only demand and deserve success, I also deserve to be right (as the customer), to be heard (as a citizen), and to be happy. So you can imagine my relief when I discovered Acts 20:35 (NCV) which says:
“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and reap the blessings of your labor. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘You deserve to succeed and be happy.’”
Except that isn’t what the verse says at all.
HOPE TO CLAIM:
“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “ Acts 20:35, NCV
Jesus tells us that we are more blessed when we give love than when we expect love. This isn’t just a nice sentiment to quote to children when they are consumed by the wants of Christmas. He’s stating a fact. We will be blessed [divinely or supremely favored; fortunate… blissfully happy or contented] when we stop seeking self and begin to seek the Lord and His desires.
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17, NIV
The real truth is that you and I don’t deserve anything. But thanks be to God who has not withheld His love from us. When we focus our source, direction, and identity in Him who is love, we will slowly begin to leave the demand for self behind.
CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40, NIV
Hang this verse in a prominent place near the front door in your house or a door you use often. Recite the verse every time you get ready to leave the house and face the world. Let the words soften you as you hurry around. Remember to love!
Advent Resource: “Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones GIVEAWAY information right HERE! (Drawing closes TONIGHT at midnight, central time. The winner will be announced tomorrow!)