It might be considered dangerous to suggest that a Biblical case can be made for selfishness; especially in an age of narcissistic self-indulgence and entitlement. Nevertheless, many of our clients over the years have found themselves in a much wounded place in their relationships because they were concerned that taking any other path than they took would have been considered selfish. Such people who get into relationship and emotional troubles because they are afraid of appearing selfish make a fundamental error in confusing selfish conduct with appropriate self-care. Some have even sacrificed personal responsibility and self-dignity because they could not bring themselves to practice good self-caring behaviors.
For example, a young woman has dated a man for six months. She believes that a value she wants to hold on to is the desire to be a virgin on her wedding day. Yet, the man she is dating has been pestering her relentlessly to go do bed with him. He has even suggested that her frequent denials have been her display of selfishness. “After all”, he argues, “you’re making no room for my wants. All you’re thinking about is yourself.” Finally, out of guilt and weariness, she gives in and acts in what he defines as a selfless manner and losses her virginity. Was protecting her virginity selfish on her part?
Another example: A young minister informs his church counsel that he wants to have a Sunday off from the pulpit every so often. He explains to the counsel that his work load is draining and the research and writing of two sermons every Sunday, in addition to his teaching and pastoral calls requirements, is a recipe for burnout. He argues that he knows his limits; and, the only way he can remain relevant and productive in the long haul is to pace himself with a Sunday free now and then. His counsel states that all their previous ministers never needed a Sunday off, and that his request demonstrated some selfishness on his part because they were paying him for two sermons per Sunday and on religious observance days. Was the young minister being selfish?
A third example: A wife and mother of three children always planned to be a full time homemaker. However, the family’s necessary expenses have exceeded their income. Therefore, she agreed with her husband that she needed to enter the work force and work a forty hour week. Yet, she has continued to maintain the traditional marital roles that she and her husband agreed to when they were first married. She is expected to come home from work, prepare the meal, help the children with their homework, clean the house, shop for groceries, pay the bills, do the laundry, and wash the toilets. She begs her husband for help explaining that she is beginning to face physical and emotional exhaustion. Her husband complains to his mother who always provided these services for him and his father. His mother calls up his wife and tells her that she is only thinking of herself and is not being a good wife to her husband. Is this wife being selfish?
I just want to get you thinking. These are actual case examples of times when good Christian people who mean well and want to be obedient to their understanding of the Bible’s teaching on self-sacrifice failed to understand the significant difference between selfishness and self-care. The end result was not pretty; nor was it bringing any glory to God.
Think about it. Take care of yourself. More thoughts later.