BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
Central to the title of this message is the word “Selfishness”. The Oxford English Learner’s Dictionary says selfishness is “the fact of caring only about yourself rather than about other people.” According to Wikipedia, selfishness “is being concerned excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others.” It states further that selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness.
Wiktionary says selfishness is “the quality of being selfish; the condition of putting one’s own interests before those of others.”
We can zero in on the word “selfish’ to have more understanding of the subject matter. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus defines “selfish” as (1) concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others (2) arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disadvantage of others. I’ll leave out the third definition because it is not relevant to this message.
Selfishness ruins relationships – with God, spouse, business partners, customers or clients, or any other relationship because selfish people are excessively or exclusively concerned about themselves; it is their own interest first. They’re always thinking about what they can get from someone not what they can give to the person. As long as they’re satisfied, others can go to hell! That’s why selfish people don’t have long-lasting relationships.
The natural man is selfish. He’s self-centred. He likes to live for himself especially these last days when the Bible says men shall be lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:2). You must die to self.
Examples of selfish people and unselfish people in the Bible
In the Bible, we have examples of those who were selfish and those who demonstrated unselfishness or selflessness. Romans 15:4a says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (NKJV). We are to learn from the lives of these Bible characters so that we can defeat selfishness in our lives.
1.Abraham and Lot: In Genesis 13:5–17, when Abraham told Lot to make a choice of land so that the two of them could part, Lot took the fertile land and parted company with Abraham. He didn’t care what happened to Abraham who had forfeited his right to make the first choice as the older person. “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other” (Genesis 13:10-11 NKJV).
Lot chose the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley so that he could provide sufficient food for his flocks. He should have been concerned about the interests of Abraham because they were in the same business. Abraham also needed grazing fields for his flocks. Nevertheless, Lot was selfish – to use one of the definitions we have considered. Lot was concerned excessively or exclusively about himself; he was seeking or concentrating on his own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for Abraham.
If Abraham had been like Lot, he would have chosen the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley, telling Lot to find his way since, though he took him along on the journey, he had failed to call his herdsmen to order when there was an argument between their herdsmen. Genesis 13:6 says, “Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land” (NKJV).
So the best way Lot could treat his benefactor, his uncle, was to grab the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley when he conceded to him to make the first choice; he couldn’t even give him the honour of choosing first notwithstanding the fact that his uncle asked him to choose first. In the end, Lot’s choice proved to be a wrong choice because the choice landed him in Sodom and Gomorrah!
Though Lot was selfish, when Abraham heard later that Lot had been captured in a war against Sodom, Abraham mobilized the 318 trained men born into his household to liberate him and bring him back. “Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people” (Genesis 14:14-16 NKJV). If he had reacted based on what Lot did when he separated from him, he wouldn’t have swung into action to secure his release.
In Genesis 14:21-24, Abraham again demonstrated his selflessness thus: “Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ — except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion’” (NKJV). First, he paid his tithe on all the goods he recovered in that war to free Lot and invariably the captured people of Sodom. Selfishness is the reason many people don’t pay their tithe. Do you pay all your tithe, part of it, or none at all?
Second, Abraham was not selfish. Therefore, he didn’t take advantage of the adversity of the people of Sodom by taking to himself all the loot of the war that the king offered him, although he was entitled to it.
Third, Abraham was not selfish when he considered the interest of his allies in the war –Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. He respected and protected their interest and right to a fair share of the goods recovered though he had chosen to forfeit his own right. Abraham didn’t impose on them his own decision or choice – selfish people don’t do that; they’re always concerned about themselves. Take note also that the king of Sodom was not also selfish in his request to Abraham. He asked for only the people while asking Abraham to take the goods recovered.
In Genesis 23:1-20, we again see another instance of Abraham’s unselfish nature. Abraham didn’t consider his own interest alone; he insisted to pay for the land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah to use as his family burial ground. He paid what the owner asked for. “Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land; and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, ‘If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.’ And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.’ And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants” (Genesis 23:12-16 NKJV).
Someone else would have used the adversity of losing his wife and the attendant need of a burial ground to accept the offer of free land, without considering the future implications of not having the legal documents showing ownership of the property. However, Abraham was thinking of the future and wanted a permanent burial ground he would have a title over. He went to the Hittite elders and said, “I am a foreigner and a visitor among you. Give me property for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight” (Genesis 23:4 NKJV). Money was not a problem for Abraham. Therefore, he paid for the land the amount requested by the owner. By virtue of the agreement made in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate, the land became his permanent possession.
Selfishness and greed go hand-in-hand. Although some people have the money, they won’t want to pay; they will rather appeal to pity and jump at the offer of free land, which they may have no title to; they forget the future. Abraham was unselfish. He was equally wise – he knew when to reject a gift.
2. Judah: In Genesis 44, Judah demonstrated a lack of selfishness. He told Joseph he should be held back as a slave in place of Benjamin. “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father” (Genesis 44:33-34 NKJV).
Judah, who was the eldest son, put the interests of Benjamin and his father ahead of his. If you compare this selfless attitude of Judah to how he behaved in Genesis 37:27 where he suggested that Joseph be sold as a slave rather than discouraging his younger ones from any evil against their brother, Joseph, it appeared, Judah had learnt his lessons. Hearing this kind of response, Joseph couldn’t stand it any longer; he revealed his identity to his brothers. It is possible you have been living a selfish life up until now, but you can change. It is not that you won’t consider your own interest at all, but you must stop being concerned excessively or exclusively about yourself or seeking your own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
Selfishness is a shameful thing, although selfish people are hardly ashamed. Jude 12 talks of “shameless shepherds who care only for themselves” (The Life Application Bible). They don’t care for the sheep. Such people are not worth being called shepherds. “Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them” (Ezekiel 34:2-6 NKJV). God says He will require His sheep at the hands of such shepherds and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; He will deliver His sheep from their mouths that they may not be food for them (verse 10).
3. Daniel: Daniel was not selfish when the king rewarded him with promotion and valuable gifts. He showed concern for his friends too. He asked the king to appoint them into offices. “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:48-49 NKJV).
A selfish person would not have bothered about his friends who had prayed with him to ask God to show them his mercy by telling them the secret of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream so that they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:18). Many people today forget their prayer partners after God has lifted them up or answered their prayers.
4. Moses: Don’t be selfish with what God has blessed you with, spiritual or physical. Be a blessing to others – don’t hoard God’s blessings. Don’t desire to be a lone star; seek to make others. Look at the mindset of Moses in Numbers 11. Moses wished that all Israelites were prophets and that the LORD put his Spirit upon them all. “So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again. But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, ‘Moses my lord, forbid them!’ Then Moses said to him, ‘Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!’ And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel” (Numbers 11:24-30 NKJV).
Selfish people are usually insecure people. Moses wasn’t insecure in his office; he wasn’t therefore selfish. He knew that if every Israelite became a prophet, it would not reduce him; he won’t lose his place. He was secure.
5. Saul: In 1Samuel 11, after Saul helped the people of Jabesh-Gilead to defeat the Amorites, he didn’t show selfishness by approving the killing of those opposed to his kingship. “Then the people said to Samuel, ‘Who is he who said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.’ But Saul said, ‘Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished salvation in Israel’” (1Samuel 11:12-13 NKJV).
This suggestion by some overzealous persons was to his advantage, but he wasn’t selfish. Many people would have taken such advice and get killed those who have shown themselves as his enemies. However, Saul overruled these self-appointed advisers.
6. Jonathan: Out of selfish ambition to be king, Jonathan should have killed David while still serving under his father. Looking at the setting, he was more qualified for the throne than David. Jonathan’s father, Saul, was the king at the time, and he was preparing Jonathan to succeed him. However, Jonathan recognized the will of God for David to be the next king rather than him; he was content to be the next to the king and not the king. “Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.’ So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house” (1 Samuel 23:16-18 NKJV). Did you see that? Rather than kill David, the two of them entered into a covenant before the LORD.
Because of David, Saul had wanted to kill Jonathan, the same Jonathan he was preparing for the throne. He was angry with Jonathan for standing in his way in his plot to kill David. “Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’ And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, ‘Why should he be killed? What has he done?’ Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully” (1 Samuel 20:30-34 NKJV). Indeed, Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself. He had no competitive jealousy towards him. He had no selfish ambition – an ambition that does not care what happens to others or exploits or oppresses others to achieve it. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). Matthew 8:24 and Luke 9:23 say a similar thing. Selfish ambition will not allow you to inherit the Kingdom of heaven.
In Galatians 5, selfish ambition is listed among the sins that will not allow anyone to inherit the Kingdom of heaven (verse 20). So get rid of it in your life. Selfishness is not God’s kind of wisdom. “But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don’t brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil” (James 3:14-16 NKJV).
7. David: I spoke about the unselfishness of Saul and Jonathan earlier. However, David is also another example of an unselfish person. If he had been selfish about becoming king, by all means, he would have killed Saul on two occasions – in fact, there wouldn’t have been a second occasion because Saul would have been dead the first time (1 Samuel 24, 26).
David refused to kill Saul for the same reason he had refused to kill him the first time – because he was the LORD’s anointed. However, this second time, he foretold Saul’s end and it came to pass just as he had said – Saul died in battle. “David said furthermore, ‘As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish’” (1 Samuel 26:10 NKJV).
Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (NKJV). When David took the wife of Uriah and got him killed, he was guilty of selfishness. In this instance, David was concerned excessively and exclusively about his own interest; he concentrated on his own advantage and pleasure not bothering about Uriah’s well- being. This truth was well explained in Prophet Nathan’s parable to David (2 Samuel 12:1–12). David, who had more than one wife, shouldn’t have defrauded Uriah of his wife and then kill him. That was selfishness. Love “is not selfish” (1Corinthians 13:5 NCV). Love “isn’t always ‘me first’” (1Corinthians 13:5 TM).
8. Araunah: Consider Araunah – he was willing to give his threshing floor, oxen, threshing implements free to David to offer sacrifice to God for the plague to stop. He put the interest of the nation of Israel above his personal interest through David had his way insisting to pay and he paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen (2 Samuel 24:18–25).
Compare David’s attitude here to the selfishness of Ahab and Jezebel concerning Naboth’s vineyard. David needed Araunah’s land for national use to sacrifice to God whereas Ahab needed Naboth’s land for his personal use.
Naboth’s vineyard was taken forcefully and his death was masterminded by Jezebel. Naboth was killed because to both Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, what mattered was their interest alone. The vegetable garden Ahab wanted to use Naboth’s land near his palace for was more important than the life of Naboth that was taken for insisting not to sell the land to Ahab, which was in obedience to the word of God (Leviticus 25:23-28). That was selfishness on the part of Ahab and Jezebel. However, God punished Ahab and his household for this selfishness and wickedness (1Kings 21:1–24).
9. Nehemiah: Nehemiah was the governor of Jerusalem who ensured the rebuilding of the wall of the city. Nevertheless, he was unselfish, unlike the previous governors. He forfeited his privileges and rights as governor; didn’t burden the people while 150 Jews ate at his table from his personal resources. That was a great demonstration of generosity. “Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor’s provisions. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God. Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work. And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us. Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (Nehemiah 5:14-19 NKJV).
Whereas many rulers see their subjects as an opportunity for exploitation to enrich themselves, Nehemiah and his officials didn’t do that. It was because Nehemiah had the fear of God. He was unselfish; he was selfless – he gave himself to the people. He was a giver, not a grabber. He used his personal resources to the benefit of the people rather than abusing public office to acquire wealth.
10. Jonah: Prophet Jonah was displeased that God had mercy on Nineveh and didn’t destroy her as God had sent him to proclaim to the people of Nineveh. Jews in those days were always selfish about God’s message – that was why Jonah was unwilling to go to deliver the message to Nineveh, the capital city of Syria, which was the dominant world power at that time. He wanted Nineveh destroyed.
However, God showed Jonah how selfish he was when he got furious at God’s destruction of the leafy plants that provided shade for him from the sun. God showed Jonah that he was only concerned about what happened to him (his welfare) and not the well-being of more than 120,000 people of Nineveh delivered from destruction (Jonah 3:5–10; 4:1–11). What this shows is that if you’re a minister of God, you must be careful because it is possible for a servant of God to be selfish. Everybody must guide against being selfish.
11. Joseph: Joseph, the husband of Mary, demonstrated unselfishness in his relationship when he saw that she was pregnant already when she had not yet moved to his house. He didn’t consider his own interest alone; he didn’t take a drastic action that could affect Mary negatively. Matthew 1:19 says, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly” (NKJV). That made up his mind not to go ahead with the marriage again; he wasn’t going to expose her to public ridicule.
Joseph’s decision changed after God has spoken to him in a dream through an angel. Some men would have subjected their wives or wives-to- be to public disgrace just to protect their own interests and prove that they were righteous or more upright. However, the Bible says we must say the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Your truth-telling should not be motivated by a desire to settle scores, destroy another or benefit from the misfortune of someone else.
12. The early church: The early church was an unselfish church. It was a generous church. In order to meet the challenge of the birth of the church, they all shared what they had and even sold their properties and gave all the proceeds to the apostles (Acts 4:32–37). However, in the midst of this mighty move, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Ghost and were killed (Acts 5:1-11).
During a global famine, the church was not selfish – she sent relief materials to the brethren in Judea (Acts 11:29-30). Believers in Macedonia and Achaia (Greece) also sent a contribution to the poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). These believers were not selfish who were focused on their own welfare.
Paul speaks of the generosity and selflessness of the churches of Macedonia, who despite their great trial of affliction gave joyfully, willingly, and liberally to the impoverished saints in Jerusalem. Though the churches in Macedonia – Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea – were themselves poor, they didn’t use that as an excuse not to give (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 11:9). The greatest threat to your giving is the excuse about your need, yet inside your seed is the panacea to your need. (2 Corinthians 9:6–11) A generous soul shall be made fat or rich, and he who waters shall also be watered himself (Proverbs 11:25). Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later” (NLT). The New King James Version says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”
How to defeat selfishness
How can you get rid of selfishness from your life in your relationship with others? The simple answer is LOVE. Love others as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; 34; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Lack of love is at the root of selfishness. However, I want to break this down and give you some useful, practical tips on how to defeat selfishness in you in your relationship with people.
1. Admit that selfishness is a sin and repent of it. Selfishness hurts others. Don’t rationalize it. If you don’t admit it is a sin, you won’t repent of it, and so you can’t defeat it.
2. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you are. Romans 12:3 says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (NKJV). Hold others in high esteem, don’t look down on others. Be humble.
3. Put the interest of others first. Paul says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NKJV). The New Living Translation renders the verse thus: “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” Paul says further in verse 33, “I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved” (NLT). So Paul didn’t put his own interest above that of others in the preaching of the Word of God.
4. Share with others. That was the principle David emphasized to his army in 1 Samuel 30:21–25 when some of his men suggested that those who couldn’t follow them to the battle should not share from the booty. “Now David came to the two hundred men who had been so weary that they could not follow David, whom they also had made to stay at the Brook Besor. So they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near the people, he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, ‘Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.’ But David said, ‘My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.’ So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day” (1 Samuel 30:21–25 NKJV). David considered the interest of the two hundred weary men and insisted they should receive their portion of the loot.
David, in addition, sent part of the plunder to the leaders of Judah, who were his friends including leaders of Bethel, Ramoth-negev, Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, Racal, the towns of the Jerahmeelites, Kenites, Hormah, Bor-ashan, Athach, Hebron, etc. (1 Samuel 30:26-31). David wasn’t selfish he shared the plunder of war with those who didn’t belong to his army.
Give others the right of the first choice. For example, join the queue – don’t shunt; those in the queue are not fools. Don’t be disorderly. “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NKJV).
5. Acknowledge that others have dreams, goals they want to achieve. Respect them and help them to achieve them. Don’t be selfish with your own dreams or goals that you don’t bother about others; don’t use people. When Jesus called his apostles, he didn’t use them to achieve his purpose on earth during his earthly ministry. He made them.
In Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, his invitation to the disciples he called was to come ye after him, and he would make them fishers of men. He made them; he didn’t use (exploit) them like many people do today even in ministry because of the selfishness about their vision. Your ministry, your business, etc should make people not use them. Looking back, they should be glad that they met you and are associated with you.
Be sensitive to the dreams, goals, and aspirations of people under you and around you. Ask them how you can help them to achieve their dreams or visions. Don’t just be concerned about them helping you to realize your vision.
6. Be sensitive to people’s personality, nature, and feelings. Always put yourself in others’ shoes – consider their perceptive of issues. Just as you have your own personality, nature, and feelings, so they have. Appreciate this fact.
7. Listen to others. Good communication starts with listening and shows you have regard for others. Don’t always want people to listen to you alone; don’t impose your views on them. Don’t interrupt people even if you disagree with them. Let people express their views. Don’t monopolize communication. Proverbs 18:13 says, “What a shame, what folly, to give advice before listening to the facts!” (NLT). The New King James Version puts it this way: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”
8. Give credit to others. Taking credit for what others have done is unfair; it is fraudulent and a sign of insecurity. Esther could have taken credit for the information on the plot to kill her husband, King Xerxes, which Mordecai heard and reported to her. However, she told the king it was Mordecai who heard about the plot. Esther 2:21-23 says, “In those days, while Mordecai sat within the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, doorkeepers, became furious and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. So the matter became known to Mordecai, who told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. And when an inquiry was made into the matter, it was confirmed, and both were hanged on a gallows; and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king” (NKJV).
Much more later, the king rewarded Mordecai. Suppose Esther didn’t give the credit to him, he wouldn’t have received the reward. How many people today have been so defrauded by people including bosses, friends, colleagues who failed to give credit to them for what they’ve done so the appropriate persons or authorities to reward them couldn’t reward them accordingly.
Don’t take credit for what others have done. Compliment them publicly even before your superiors; it shows you’re mature and secure. The apostle Paul says he did not “claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow and that our work among you will be greatly enlarged” (2 Corinthians 10:15 NLT).
When your team performs a feat or accomplishes a task, don’t monopolize the credit. Share the credit with your team – don’t be a selfish leader. We’ve seen how David’s men were selfish in 1 Samuel 30:21–25, but David overruled them. He said everybody must share alike — those who went to the battle and those who stayed by the supplies or the goods.
9. Be generous; don’t be selfish. Proverbs 11:24-26 says, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it” (NKJV). The New Living Translation renders the passage thus: “It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. People curse those who hold their grain for higher prices, but they bless the one who sells to them in their time of need.” (NLT)
In 2 Samuel 12, Joab was not selfish; he wanted David to take the credit for victory in a war though he was about to wrap up the battle and secure victory for Israel. This was very much, unlike Joab who had a reputation of being a thorn in the flesh of David. However, on this occasion, he did the right thing.
2 Samuel 12:26–31 tells us the story: “Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the people of Ammon, and took the royal city. And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, ‘I have fought against Rabbah, and I have taken the city’s water supply. Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called after my name.’ So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah, fought against it, and took it. Then he took their king’s crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David’s head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance. And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws and iron picks and iron axes, and made them cross over to the brick works. So he did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem” (NKJV).
1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Don’t think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them” (NLT). The New Century Version puts it this way: “Do not look out only for yourselves. Look out for the good of others also.” The Message adds more value to that scripture thus: “We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.” If you live for yourself, you’ll die a small person. “The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life” (Galatians 6:8 TM)
10. Look for ways of reciprocating favour or good deeds. Never take people for granted or take advantage of them. Pay for goods and services; don’t have a reputation for soliciting for free things. It’s a different matter if someone voluntarily gives you something. Nothing is free; it costs somebody something! Don’t manipulate people to give you things or sow seeds. God loves a cheerful giver, not a grumbling giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
“For you see, the believers in Greece have eagerly taken up an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem, who are going through such hard times. They were very glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the wonderful spiritual blessings of the Good News from the Jewish Christians, they feel the least they can do in return is help them financially” (Romans 15:26-27 NLT). The Christians in Greece gave willingly and gladly. However, note that they gave in appreciation of the spiritual blessing of the good news from the Jewish Christians. They didn’t take what the spiritual blessing they had received from them for granted; they tried to reciprocate their good gestures with a financial gift at a time Christians in Jerusalem were going through hard times. The Christians in Greece were not selfish; they could have faced their own business not bothered what happed to the Christians in Jerusalem. However, they didn’t do that. They demonstrated practical love towards them that is how God expects you to live. Don’t be selfish.
11. Celebrate others instead of seeking to be celebrated. Remember important occasions or dates in others’ lives and rejoice with them. If we celebrate each other, everybody will be celebrated. People call to rejoice with you on your birthday, send you cards and gifts, etc. Do you reciprocate? How many people do you remember important dates in their lives rejoice with them? Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NKJV).
Ishmael and her mother were sent away from Abraham’s home because Ishmael didn’t know how to celebrate Isaac. “As time went by and Isaac grew and was weaned, Abraham gave a big party to celebrate the happy occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael — the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar — making fun of Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, ‘Get rid of that servant and her son. He is not going to share the family inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!’” (Genesis 21:8-10 NLT). Ishmael shouldn’t have made fun of Isaac instead of rejoicing with him and the family. Why should he mock what and who Abraham was celebrating? It was a happy occasion, but Ishmael was making fun of his younger brother (step-brother). Why? Unfortunately for him, Sarah caught him laughing at her child of promise, a child that took him over twenty-five years to have. Though Abraham objected to Sarah’s request, God told him to listen to his wife, which he did. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. Don’t mock the promotion, the success, the ministry, the breakthrough, etc that others are celebrating; don’t spoil their happy occasions. Such an attitude or behavior destroys relationships.
12. Respect people’s time; keep to time. It is selfishness that makes some people not to keep to time. They keep others waiting while doing their own tasks. That’s not fair. You’re investing your own time while wasting others’ time. That is selfishness. It is often said that time is money, but I think it is truer to say time is life. A time waster is a life waster! Time and tide wait for no man. Time lost can never be found again.
13. Put things right. Correct the damage that selfishness has caused where possible. Ask for forgiveness; fix relationships that selfishness has destroyed (Matthew 5:23-26). Where it’s impossible to restore things, ask for God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself.
Conclusion: Search your life and repent of selfishness. Don’t explain it away. If you’ll act upon the message you’ve read, you’ll be able to deliver yourself from selfishness and cultivate healthy relationships with people.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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