My good friend, the late Bill Snell, enjoyed telling a story about a preacher who was staying for several days with a brother in Christ, his wife, and their little 5-year-old son. Every morning, the woman of the house made a hot breakfast that included the flakiest, fluffiest biscuits he had ever tasted. Each morning, the little boy would get to the table before the preacher. As the preacher sat down to eat, the little boy would touch the top of all the biscuits and say, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine….” Finally, the preacher was fed up enough to get to the table just before the boy. As the boy sat down, the preacher touched the top of all the biscuits and said, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine….” The little boy smiled impishly, licked the palms of his hands, and said, as he touched the top of each biscuit, “Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours….”
Selfishness may seem childish, but it is not just a problem for children, is it? Too often, we allow others to provoke us into childish actions. We lower ourselves to their level, but we come out looking just like them. In the book of Philippians are several, well-known statements warning against the follow and hurtfulness of selfishness. Paul writes that some preached out of selfish ambition (1:17). He further says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (2:3). Some “seek after their own interests” (2:21).
James warned, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:14-17).
However cute you did or did not think that little boy, selfishness is anything but adorable. It is evil and chaos. It is arrogant and dishonest. May we ever strive toward a spiritual maturity that does away with this sort of behavior.