Episode 1. It’s My Toy
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Back in the day when I was in the Army, causing a self-inflicted injury was a serious offence. You could be locked up for hurting yourself. And yet, as I look around, there are so many people with pain in their lives. Self-inflicted pain. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you want to live […]
Back in the day when I was in the Army, causing a self-inflicted injury was a serious offence. You could be locked up for hurting yourself. And yet, as I look around, there are so many people with pain in their lives. Self-inflicted pain. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you want to live that way?
It’s great to be with you at the beginning of another week and today, today we’re continuing our series of messages called ‘Pain Relief For The Soul’. We all experience pain as much as we wish it wasn’t true. Some pain in life is inevitable, a loved one dies, unemployment, children suffering.
There is some pain that comes our way that we simply cannot avoid but and this is a big but many people live in much of their lives in self inflicted pain. Let me say that again, many people are living much of their lives in self inflicted pain. The sort of pain that happens because of our own immaturity.
Something happens, they react more like a child than an adult and as a result of their reaction they experience pain. Stimulus – response, stimulus – response over and over again just, as we saw last week, like Pavlov’s dogs, that famous experiment on behaviour.
And one of those immaturities, the one we’re going to look at today is our selfish desire. It begins quite early on in life. Two children not even old enough to walk will fight over a toy both wanting it for themselves. It’s an amazing thing to watch, I don’t know if you’ve done that, how early selfishness takes hold of us as children.
In fact when we watch children what we discover is that selfishness is our natural state and part of growing up is learning to let go of that selfishness. Problem is that many, many people never ever do. And that simple immaturity, our own selfish desire is one of the biggest sources of pain in life imaginable.
You and I, we both have needs. Our physical needs and emotional needs and spiritual needs and that’s part of life, it’s an important part of life making sure that our needs are met. There’s nothing wrong with that but in our society we’ve turned looking after ourselves, looking after our own needs, protecting ourselves into something of an art form.
And that art form has a name, it’s called selfishness and it’s nothing new. The Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Corinth in the 1st century he had this to say. 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 20:
For I fear that when I come I may find you not as I wish and that you may find me not as you wish. I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder.
It’s quite a list isn’t it? And right smack bang in the middle of this list is selfishness. So what is it? We think of other people being selfish, not ourselves. Surely not me, yeah right. So what is this selfishness thing that’s so easily, so naturally, so unassumingly grips our lives?
Well here’s a dictionary definition of selfishness:
It’s a person, action or motive lacking consideration for others. Concerned chiefly with our own personal profit or pleasure.
That’s what my dictionary tells me. And in that passage that we just read from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, it literally means, the word ‘selfishness’, well it’s the idea of electioneering, of putting yourself forward, of courting distinction, of getting other people to vote for you.
In fact the only other place in antiquity where we find this same Greek word used by Paul here for selfishness is by Aristotle where he uses it to mean ‘self seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means’.
A selfish person is someone who promotes themselves. It’s someone who puts themselves first. Someone who promotes their own interests. Someone who’ll pursue self gain whatever the means, dishonest, unfair, to promote themselves and to put themselves first.
You see an awful lot of that in this world don’t you? And if the truth be known this selfishness thing is something that grips us all too easily. It’s so natural because protecting our needs and our rights and our wants comes very naturally to each one of us.
So why does it cause such pain this selfishness? It’s kind of weird because it promises so much. Selfishness promises that if we pander to ourselves we’ll feel better, we’ll get what we want. If we’re selfish and tread on the next guy to get what we want then we win and they lose and that’s what it’s all about. A perfect outcome we think to ourselves.
And whilst my selfishness may hurt others, so what? It makes me feel good when I get what I want. Just like those two toddlers fighting over a toy. “It’s my toy, I want it, give it to me”. And when the stronger one wins he laughs while the other one cries.
That’s what supposed to happen. That’s the promise that selfishness holds out but it’s not what happens. Selfishness is in fact one of the greatest causes of pain on the planet because it draws fire from all directions.
Gary Larson is perhaps one of the funniest and most irreverent cartoonists who’s ever been. One of my favourite cartoons is Far Side cartoons, it’s one of the two reindeer with big antlers and they’re standing up on their hind legs in the forest and one of them has a red and white bulls eye painted on the chest and the other guy says, “Hell of a birthmark Hal.”
You see I think that’s funny but you know when it comes to selfishness it’s exactly the picture and it’s exactly the right one because selfishness is a birth mark, it’s something that we’re each born with and when we live it out it draws the fire of hell on us.
And satan, the enemy, just loves that. When I’m selfish I tread on other people, I destroy relationships. My selfishness then brings anger and strife and jealousy upon me because the whole of my life becomes a competition to get the things I want. It’s my toy, I want it, I have to get it.
Selfishness is the pivot point in that list that Paul writes in 2 Corinthians. Here’s the list again:
I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder.
All the others, quarrelling, jealousy, anger, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder fall out of that one right smack bang in the middle of the list, selfishness. Friend, those things cause us pain. Selfishness promises so much but it only brings us pain. Again the Apostle Paul has a solution for us. Philippians chapter 2, verse 3:
Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each one of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God, didn’t regard His equality with God as something He should exploit.
Instead He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness and being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
And because of that God exalted Him and gave Him the name that’s above every name. See winning is losing and losing, on the other hand, is winning. When we give up the fight, the 24×7 competition of meeting every selfish desire and friend it’s such hard work.
Do you realise what hard work it is being selfish? When we give it up all of a sudden that birth mark goes away. We stop drawing fire and it’s that fire that hurts us. Fire from the world, fire from other people and fire from the devil himself.
When we start putting others first we build relationships rather than destroying them. And when we put others first, do nothing out of your own selfish interests, then we’re living life like Christ.
It costs us something to put others first, it cost Jesus His life, a brutal death on the cross yet He humbled Himself for our sakes. That’s the model, that’s where freedom is. It seems that giving up selfish desires is going to cause us pain in the short term, sometimes it does but ultimately Gods way brings a joy and a peace and a security that words can’t describe.