All sin is actually selfishness; all sin is choosing to give in to something that I want. This is how we are as human beings, it is part of our human nature. But, we are chosen to follow Jesus, to follow in His footsteps, to live our lives as He lived His life, to overcome sin. (1 Peter 2:21.) We are not meant to be “trapped” by our human nature and human habits, with no way out.
But we can only follow in Jesus’ footsteps if we decide to give up living for ourselves and to live completely for God’s will instead of our own. Like it says in Philippians 2:3 (NCV): “When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide …”
The effect of selfishness
If we are selfish instead of saying No to it when we are tempted, we become very unhappy, as we read in James 3:16 (NCV): “Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.” When we choose to be selfish in any way (like being greedy, being jealous instead of being happy for others, doing things we know to be wrong), we will continue to be frustrated, unhappy and lost, and we can’t make any spiritual progress.
If we make selfish choices and don’t repent, we will lose our connection and life with God. We cannot keep living a little bit for ourselves, wanting to do our own will, and also live for God. Then we are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, and God will not give His blessing to such people. (Revelation 3:16.)
How we overcome selfishness
Jesus says in Luke 9:23 (CEB), “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”
In that simple verse, Jesus gives us the key to heaven and to the fruits of the Spirit, like joy, patience, goodness etc. Jesus says here that if we want to follow Him, we need to take up our own cross daily, we need to say No to our own will with its sinful desires and habits daily, in all situations. Not once or twice, not sometimes, but all of the time. This is the way Jesus lived His life each day, and this is also how we are meant to live our lives each day.
When we give up our life to live for God – give up our own opinions, desires, sinful habits – we get the most rewarding, happy, and fulfilling life possible here on earth, AND we get the fruits of the Spirit, our nature changes to become like Jesus’ nature. “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 (NLT).
To remain in love is to run far away from all selfishness, like it says in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” When we overcome sin in our own personal lives, we are saving ourselves, and also helping those around us, as it is written in 1 Timothy 4:16. We don't put others first only when we feel like it, or when we feel they deserve goodness. No, we act in love always, for Jesus’ sake, because we love Him and always want to follow His commandments.
Jesus carried out the greatest act of unselfishness by coming down to earth and making it possible for us to overcome sin in all situations, and in the end dying for us on the cross. This is the greatest act of love that there ever was. In Luke 22:42 (GW) we can see how decided He was to do God’s will – even when He knew that He was facing death, He chose to do God’s will and never His own: “Father, if it is your will, take this cup [of suffering] away from me. However, your will must be done, not mine.”
A fulfilling life
As a human being, Jesus went through all kinds of situations in which He was tempted in every way as we are, and He overcame in all of them, never giving in to sin or to His own will. (Hebrews 4:15.) In John 16:33 He says: “… be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” When we feel we don’t have the power to resist our selfish desire to sin in a situation, we can simply pray, and believe, and we will receive the help we need, as it is written in Matthew 21:22 (GNT): “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Every person is either a servant of God, or they serve their own natural will and sin. (Romans 6:16.) If we are a servant of God, it brings happiness and help to people and the world. And best of all, we ourselves change and that can never be taken away from us. We become more and more free from our own sin.
If we give in to selfishness, life becomes empty. But God wants us to live the happiest, most fulfilling life possible, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB): “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” Peace and a hopeful future is what we get when we live for Him instead of for ourselves!