All sin is actually selfishness; all sin is choosing to give into something that you want, that you feel serves you in that moment. This can also be called “egotism.” This is a completely natural tendency, which all humans have rooted very deeply in them. But, we are called to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, to live our lives as He lived His, by overcoming sin. We are not meant to be “trapped” by our human tendencies, with no way out. Following in Jesus’ footsteps is only attainable if we decide to give up living for ourselves and live completely for God’s will in our life instead of our own: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit …” Philippians 2:3.
The effect of selfishness
Being selfish instead of denying sin when we are tempted, makes us extremely unhappy: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” James 3:16. When we choose to be selfish in any way (e.g. being greedy, being jealous instead of rejoicing for others, doing those things we know to be wrong), we will continue to be stuck in the cycle of being frustrated, lost, unable to make spiritual progress, and unhappy.
Making selfish choices will result in a lost connection and life with God; we cannot have it both ways. We cannot keep a little bit of our life (living to serve our own will) – even some of the time – and also live for God. That mindset is called doublemindedness: “… purify your hearts, you double-minded;” James 4:8, and God will not give His blessing to such people. (Revelation 3:16)
How we overcome selfishness
Luke 9:23: “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
In that simple verse, Jesus gives us the keys to heaven and to divine nature. Jesus says here that if we long to follow Him, we need to take up our own cross (death to our own will with its sinful inclinations in all situations) daily. Not once or twice, not sometimes, not when I feel it is “my turn,” but all of the time. This is the way He lived His life each day, and this is also how we are meant to live our lives. When we give up our life for God – our own opinions, desires, the sinful tendencies in our flesh – we get the most rewarding, happy, and fulfilling life possible here on earth, while we partake of divine nature. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:24.
To abide in love is to flee all selfishness: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13. When we overcome sin in our own personal lives, we are saving ourselves, and also helping those around us. (1 Timothy 4:16) We don’t put others first only when we feel like it, or when we feel people deserve goodness. We act in love always, for Jesus’s sake, because we love Him, so we want to follow His commandments always.
Jesus carried out the ultimate act of selflessness by coming down to earth and choosing to pave the way for us by overcoming sin in all situations, and ultimately dying on the cross. This is the greatest act of love that there ever was. We can see His decided mindset in Luke 22:42, when He knew that He was facing even death, how He chose to serve God’s will and never His own: “saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’”
A fulfilling life
As a human being, Jesus went through all kinds of situations in which He was tempted in all points as we are, and He overcame in all of them, never giving into sin or His own will. (Hebrews 4:15) He said: “… be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. When we feel we don’t have the strength or ability to deny our egotistic desire to sin in a situation, we can simply pray, believe, and we will receive the help we need: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22.
Every person is either a servant to God, or to their own natural tendencies and sin. (Romans 6:16) Being a servant to God brings happiness and help to people and the world, and best of all, inner transformation in ourselves that can never be taken away from us. We become more and more free from our own sin. Being a slave to our selfishness leads to loss and emptiness. God wants us to live the happiest, most fulfilling life possible: “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. That is exactly what we get when we live for Him instead of for ourselves!