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Issues SelfInterest

Issues SelfInterest

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Published by PartakeM
Talking about Christians and the battle between self-interest and contentment...
Talking about Christians and the battle between self-interest and contentment...

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Published by: PartakeM on May 23, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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IssuesSelf Interest
Philippians 2:4,21 “
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also tothe interests of others. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of JesusChrist.” 
Those verses written by Paul almost two thousand years ago still resonate loudly today.In our culture, particularly in the west, selfish individualism is endemic and rife. “I cando what I want, when I want, because I am right and always right.” “Me, me, me”,people cry through their actions and attitudes! Where material possessions takeprecedence and the desire for more is ever evident throughout all aspects of life. Theinterest of others is placed at the bottom of the pile – people are placed belowpossessions. These are twenty-first century gods and idols. The god of the twenty-firstcentury is “self-interest” and humanity bows to this god quite willingly, because it offersno threat. At its very source is pride! Their actions and attitude proudly proclaims “I amfirst, and everyone else is last”. As Christians, what should our reaction be to thisaspect of our culture? as Christians living within this societal culture, how are we and theChurch to respond?
Story of the Rich Young Ruler
Within the Gospels, there is the story told of Jesus’ encounter with a man runs up toJesus and falls on his knees before him. Matthew 19v16-26 describes him as a youngman. Mark 10v17-22 he is simply a man and in Luke 18v18-27, he is described as awealthy ruler. Put altogether, that makes him a rich young ruler. This man wantseternal life, wants it now and so asks Jesus about how to get it. This young man hadfully kept the commandments listed by Jesus. However when Jesus said to the youngruler that in order to follow Him, he would have to give up all his wealth and possessionsin order to have treasure in heaven and eternal life, the man left disconsolate. His lifereflected is absorption with self and his self-interest.That was a step too far for the rich young ruler. He wanted his riches and alsoeverlasting life but Jesus said he couldn’t have both. He remains the only man who leftJesus’ presence sorrowful, and that due to putting his trust in his riches and wealthalone. Now riches are not necessarily wrong but they do make trusting fully in God verydifficult
(Mark 10v23)
. One of his primary problems was that he was not content withwhat he had materially. He always wanted more and possessions were more importantto him than people. He was not willing to make the sacrifice required to follow Jesus.This attitude is endemic throughout our society, and sadly in some sections of thechurch, but what is the counter-cultural response that Christians and the Church shouldbe making
Paul commands Christian Disciples to be content with godliness (1 Timothy 6). Bycombining contentedness with godliness, Paul means not being worried about anything,because Jesus Christ is to be your sufficiency. Paul says this, because we came into this
world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. The bare necessities forcontentment of life are food, clothing & shelter. However, we could in the twenty-firstcentury, with some justification say that some other things are also necessary. Forexample, cars, books and computers may well be a necessity. That is up to our ownindividual consciences. But what we need to do, when considering purchasing things is,not to so much to ask “Can I afford it?” but rather “Can I justify it, and could the moneybe better used elsewhere?” Further on in 1 Timothy 6, Paul states that we are not todesire riches, lest we fall into the temptation of coveting and wander away from faith of God (vv9-10) as well as not to love money because it is a source of all kinds of evil.Every day, Christians pray that God would not lead them into temptation; and you knowwhat, He does not need to, because they do that quite easily enough by themselves.And those that are rich are not to flaunt it arrogantly and are certainly not to place theirhopes in them (v17). Those who are rich are commanded to be also rich in good deeds,to be generous and sharing (v18), building up heavenly treasure instead of earthlyrubbish (v19). I should hasten to add, that contentment should also carry with it, theidea of living simply, in sympathy and solidarity with the poor of the world. Every one of us could to some degree, live that little bit more simply. That is contentment withgodliness.The contented person of humility says, “God is first, others are second, and I come last” and puts people before possessions. They have placed their total trust in God alone, andnot in their material possessions. It so easy to fall into the trap of saying – “If only I hadthat new computer, camera, a new car or an easier job with more money?” It is so easyto say these things, and forget to be content with what we have. And it is even easier toforget to say thank-you to God for giving us all our good things. We hardly ever thankhim, for friends and all the material blessings He does provide and the pleasure we gainfrom what He gives us. A key question to ask ourselves when seeking biblicalcontentment is: “Could I really thank my Lord for this particular item I want?” By showing we are content, whether because we have much or because we have little,we reflect a difference to a world, which is all about gaining more and more things. In aculture, where the order is: myself first and others last. As Christians we are to becounter-cultural and put God first, others second and ourselves last. By being contentwith what we have, we reflect that we are comfortable with what we have.The culture around us needs to see Christians living with contentment that only comesthrough trusting actively in Jesus Christ. This contentment is expressed by placing theinterests of others first and above self-interest. Placing people before possessions iscontentment displayed. They need to see Christians sacrificially loving each other, whichis the outcome of being content. They need to see Christians and the Church beingloving, caring, compassionate, kind and putting people ahead of material objects. If people see Christians that are not doing those things, rightly or wrongly, the wholeChurch is branded as a bunch of fakes and hypocrites. Worse still, God is seen, at best,as nothing more than a distant, uncaring and increasingly irrelevant myth.People should be seeing God’s love, through your love and godly contentedness. For asJesus said, “All people will know that you are my disciples if you have love one foranother” (John 13:35). We are commanded to love, regardless of what or who the otherperson is or does. Godly contentment, which is humility in action, is part of unconditional love in action – unabandoned love for God, and unconditional love forothers. Too often, even within the Church and the lives of professing Christians,financial profit, the seeking of possessions and pleasure and wanton greed takes priorityover people – any people. When that occurs, that means the Church has compromised.They are no better than that rich young ruler who left Jesus’ presence because thedemands were too great. Don’t be like that rich young ruler, but rather seek to emulateJesus Christ, who was the most content person ever to have lived. We are commandedto be in the world but not of the world. We can do this by exhibiting contentedness in

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