Love is Not Self-Seeking, Part I

Title: Love is Not Self-Seeking

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:5

Time: March 11th, 2007

Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the fifth verse, which includes, “Love is not self-seeking.” The Apostle Paul is teaching us what love is and what love isn’t. Today, again, we are learning what love isn’t; it isn’t self-seeking. The original Greek language uses two words, literally “self-seeking,” in this particular part of the passage. That’s why the New International Version translates it “self-seeking.” But other Bible translations translate in a similar way. For example, the King James says, “Love seeketh not her own;” Today’s English Bible says, “Love is not selfish;” Phillips Bible says, “Love does not pursue selfish advantage;” the Revised Standard Version says, “Love does not insist on its own way.” So we can get an idea what the Apostle Paul is trying to teach us about this characteristic of love. Again, Paul is contrasting what love is with what love isn’t, what love does with what love doesn’t do. This is something that love doesn’t do – selfishly seeks after itself. Today, our society almost teaches us from a very young age to seek after things for ourselves. The whole commercial advertisement industry teaches us — or you might say even trains us — through marketing to be consumers. A consumer is someone who spends their life consuming things. It could be consuming food, or consuming goods and services, using products, buying things, using them, and going back for more things. We are taught to try to satisfy every need we have by buying something. We are even told we need things we never even knew we needed, and commercial advertisements often try to brainwash us into thinking that we can’t live without their products. It must be working, because companies keep spending millions on advertisements, so someone is buying the message. But what is assumed in all the commercials is self-interest. It is assumed that the consumer is looking out for #1, that is, self. And so the message of society today is that being self-centered is ok. But the Bible teaches us that selfishness or being self-centered is not ok. It isn’t what love is. But that goes against the message we hear every day of our lives living in the modern world. But the message isn’t just found in advertisement, it’s found in nearly every area of life. Take typical counseling, for example. When a person visits a typical secular counselor, the goal is self-fulfillment, self-satisfaction. People visit a counselor because they want to feel better about themselves and the counseling session becomes all about them. It’s self-centered. What are the results of people taking on this self-centered philosophy and outlook? Consider just one area: marriage and divorce. If you have two self-seeking individuals trying to live out a self-serving marriage relationship is it any wonder that ½ of all marriages end in divorce? The Apostle’s message that love is not self-seeking is badly needed today in order to counter the selfish message society teaches. We need this teaching like never before. So let’s look at the truth: love is not self-seeking, and try to understand what it means, and try to apply it to our life. Let’s apply it to just three but very important areas of life.

First, love is not self-seeking in relationships. 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love is not self-seeking.” This may be the most important misunderstood truth in society today. Today, the word “love” often means the very opposite of what the Bible teaches because today love is often thought of as something self-centered. Love is often reduced to a romantic feeling or attraction or something that makes us feel good. People approach love in a totally selfish way and think that’s what love is, but it isn’t. We’ve been learning about love for the last few months and what we are learning is that love is centered on others and not self. Yet, society continues to portray love as a means of self-fulfillment. That’s why marriages break up so often, because both the man and the woman are trying to seek self-fulfillment at the other’s expense, and that just won’t work, divorce results. On television, movies, popular music, books and magazines, we see this false understanding of love as a selfish self-seeking emotion or feeling, but that is really the total opposite of real love. Real love isn’t self-seeking, as the Apostle Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians. And if real love isn’t self-seeking, then it must be looking out for the best interests of others. If the selfish lie we are hearing from society about love is wrong, the correct view of love must be considering and promoting the interests not of self but of others. And so it is. Love promotes the interests and welfare of others, not just the interests and welfare of self. Remember the teaching of Jesus when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself?” Remember that teaching? What it means is that you are not to simply think about yourself, for example, in a relationship whether marriage or family or friendship, but to think about others as well. We aren’t to think first of all what can I get out of a relationship, but also, what can I give to the other as well. If we are totally self-seeking, which is what love is definitely not and what we should not do — but if we are totally self-seeking in a relationship, we’ll always be asking this question: what’s in it for me? What will I get out of this relationship — whether it’s a friendship, family, marriage, business relationship, or work relationship? But if I’m practicing love in my relationships, I’ll ask the question, “What can I do to help the other person? What can I do to help the other person get what they need in life?” Love isn’t selfish; it’s self-giving. Now can you imagine how this simple truth, if followed, would revolutionize marriages? Imagine how the divorce rate would drop if couples followed the way of love, or self-giving, rather than the way of self-seeking which is a counterfeit love? What about your relationships? Are you always asking, “What can I get out of this relationship or friendship?” If so, try changing the question to, “What can I give into this relationship?” It’s the way of love in relationships that can change the world, or at least change our personal world and the people around us.

Second, love is not self-seeking in resources. 1 Corinthians 13:5, Love is not self-seeking.” Here we are talking about money and material possessions. Again, society teaches us to be selfish about money and possessions. Our whole economy is built on the assumption that people act out of self-interest in respect to money and possessions, and that assumption is pretty near correct. People do usually act selfishly in respect to their money and possessions. But just because we all have a natural tendency to act selfishly with money and possessions doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be. In fact, the Bible teaches us the very opposite – we are to act generous and giving with our money and other material resources. But that’s pretty hard to do because of our natural tendency to be selfish and because society promotes selfishness. But what the Apostle Paul is trying to teach us is that love is not self-seeking in respect to money and possessions, even if that goes against the grain of society. So we also have to learn how to swim upstream in a selfish and materialistic and greedy society. We need to learn to love when it’s easier to just follow our own selfish nature and the selfish example of society. Let me give an example of the challenge we face in being loving in a selfish society. I remember once attending a fund-raising dinner for an organization. Local area stores had donated a number of items in order to help with the fund raising. The idea was that there would be an auction to raise money for this organization. After the dinner all the items were auctioned off and the money used to help this organization. But what happened at first was typical based on natural human self-seeking interest and society training us to be greedy. At first, with the first two or three items, people were trying to get the best deal on the items, so they’d bid the absolute lowest price they could, and nobody wanted to pay any more than they thought the item was worth. Or in other words, they were trying to get the most stuff for the least amount of money, just like we are all trained to do in buying and selling in our economy. But by doing so, the organizers of the auction realized that at this rate the organization wouldn’t raise very much money, and after all that was the goal of the whole thing. So a woman from the committee had to go up front and remind people that this was a fund-raising event and to be generous with bids and to not think of this as a normal auction where one tries to get the most for the least. After that reminder, people did become more generous and things were sold and the organization raised its needed funds. But that’s a good example how we can all get caught up in being greedy and self-centered with our money and resources. The Bible teaches us to not be greedy and self-seeking with our money. Love teaches us to not only seek after our own financial and material well-being, but to think about others. How do you do in this area? Are you generous with your money? Or do you pretty much spend every last dollar on yourself? Do you often give things away to others, or is your life pretty much spent getting things to keep for yourself? What does Paul say? “Love is not self-seeking” – that also means a loving person isn’t selfish with money and possessions.

Third, love is not self-seeking in religion. 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love is not self-seeking.” I’ll cover just one more area today on this topic, but there are lots of areas this truth can apply. Love is not self-seeking in religion. I say religion because religion is man’s attempt to relate to God. I don’t consider Christianity, technically, a religion because it’s mostly God’s attempt to reach down to man through the cross of Jesus Christ, instead of mostly man’s attempt to reach up to God through some other means. But the fact is there is a lot of religion in our world and it’s mostly self-seeking. Or in other words, people ask this question: what can God do for me? Is that how your relationship with God is? Are you always asking the question to God, “What can you do for me today?” I hope that isn’t your attitude, because that’s self-seeking, that’s not what love is, although that is what most people ask in respect to God. That self-seeking or selfish attitude even comes into churches too. People start asking the pastor, “What can you give to me? What can you do for me?” People look to churches with these questions in mind, “I like music, is the music good, do they sing the songs I like, do they use the style of music I want?” Do you catch the attitude behind those questions? It’s all self-centered. Here are some more questions people ask, “Does the church have a good children’s or youth program? My children are important to me so I want the best for them.” Or this question, “Can I make friends at the church? Can I improve my social life at this church? I hope they have a lot of social activities for me because I like to meet people?” Again, do you get a feel for the attitude behind all these questions? It is, “What can you and your church do for me?” That is called self-seeking, or just plain selfishness. Yet, that is totally accepted today even among Christians in finding a church to meet their needs. But if love is not self-seeking, if love is not self-centered, if love is not selfish, then we need to ask different questions, not just about God and church, but about a lot of areas of life. How about this question, “Where can I be to help the most people? What can I do to help somebody who really needs help in life? Where can I be of most service to God and people?” Those are really more loving questions aren’t they? Why not choose a church based on where you can do the most good in helping others? I’m not saying only helping others. Remember what Jesus said again, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” That means we don’t forget about ourselves and our own spiritual needs; we need to grow and be inspired too. But this endless self-seeking that goes on even among Christians: “God, what can you do for me today? How can the church help and serve me?” These are selfish questions; these are not coming from a heart of love but out of self-seeking, which is not love.

I could apply this teaching to area after area of life because it’s so big and wide and touches so many areas. But the point is clear: we must think of others — that’s what love is, thinking of others, and not just ourselves. We must seek the interests of others, not just our own interests. Now we all know how easy it is to fall into the typical and natural path of self-seeking and selfishness. It comes so easy for all of us. But one of the great benefits of giving our hearts to God through Jesus Christ is that we can be free of our own natural sinful selves. We can break free from the original sin nature that drags us down to the level of animals. We don’t have to be like the squirrels and chipmunks who hoard their nuts in their tree homes and fight off all who would seek assistance of them. To be honest, a lot of people are just like the squirrels and chipmunks we see around Fall gathering, hoarding, and protecting their goods. People do that too. They are self-seeking and selfish. We all fall into that category once in a while. But we must seek to break out of it because love demands that we think of others as we think of ourselves. Can we get out of ourselves enough to trust God that if we really get serious about loving that he will take care of us? Do you trust God enough to trust that if we go about loving people and thinking of others and helping others in their hour of need that God will take care of us in our hour of need? I think one of the main reasons why we get selfish and self-seeking is that we really don’t trust that God will come through for us in our time of need. That is, if we give to others, we may not have enough leftover for ourselves. Isn’t that a fear we ponder sometimes? I think a lot of times when we find ourselves acting selfishly or seeking after our own interests and not looking after the concerns of others, it’s out of a fear that if we don’t take care of ourselves nobody else will. Isn’t it? There is no question that it takes faith in God to really follow and obey His teaching to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It takes faith to give – anything, but it’s the way of love and so we must take that risk. What about yourself? Do you need to take more of the risk of love and give more to others and keep less for yourself? Do you need to trust God more that he will provide for you even as you give away from yourself to others? Why not start on small things and work your way up to larger things? We can all start by thinking more about the needs of others in relationship to thinking about our own needs. That’s a start.

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One Response to “Love is Not Self-Seeking, Part I”

  1. sinairesse Says:

    My perspective exactly. thanks for sharing

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