Act In Your Own Self-Interest
“And in the few moments that we have left, I want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” (Malcom X) The human tendency is to always act in our own self-interest. You may rationalize this by simply acknowledging the fact that we live in a sin-stained world. Thus, of course we are all ego-centric and merely looking out for ourselves.
But this would simply be a copout. For we have all been given the opportunity to acknowledge the environmental effects on our decisions. We all realize that we live in an imperfect, sin-stained, fractured and faulty world. Thus, we have all also been given the possibility of overcoming the environmental effects on our decisions.
None-the-less, acting in our own self-interest is true for each and every single one of us. I’m writing these words right now, out of my own self-interest. And you are reading these words right now, out of your own self-interest. Those who naturally put others before themselves do so because, deep down, they believe that service to others is the best thing for themselves. Likewise, those who naturally put themselves before others do so because, deep down, they believe that self-interest is the best thing for themselves.
This is in no way a crack on anyone. This is simply us getting real. All of us do what we do, because we believe it’s what’s best for us. We serve, because it’s best for us. We exercise, because it’s best for us. We work, we have hobbies, we like certain styles of music, we binge certain kinds of shows, watch certain kinds of movies, eat nutritional food, and the like, because we believe it’s what’s best for us. It’s human to always act in our own self-interest. This isn’t simply something that we do, it’s who we are.
Understanding this about all of us, God has structured reality in a way that fits us, right where we are. God has met us, become one of us and continues to walk with us. Fully aware that we always act in our own self-interest.
God has no desire to take away your ability to act in your own self-interest. God simply desires to redefine what you consider to be in your own self-interest. This is the transformation that God desires in your life. Not changing what you do, but transforming who you are.
Let’s look at two examples – mercy and judgment. First, The Mercy Principle. Understanding that we all act in our own self-interest, you receive mercy from God on the basis of the mercy you offer to others (Matthew 5:7). In other words, the more mercy you show to others, the more mercy you experience from God, in your own life. Which motivates you to show more mercy to others. Which in turn enables you to experience more mercy from God, in your own life. And on and on and on.
God’s mercy is complete and never-ending. When Jesus died on the cross mercy from God was a done deal. Yet, your experience of this mercy solely rests in your ability to show mercy to others. God has gifted you all mercy. But you will only experience this gift if you show mercy to others. Thus, God wants you to make the decision today that showing mercy to others is in your own self-interest.
Second, The Judgement Principle. Understanding that we all act in our own self-interest, you receive or don’t receive judgment from God on the basis of your judgment of others. For in the way you judge you will be judged (Matthew 7:2).
Let’s not sugar-coat this, there’s judgment. As we acknowledged above, we live in a sin-stained world. We have all fallen short and we can’t be good enough, on our own, to be right with God. Thus, a price has to be paid. That price is death (Genesis 2:17).
The good news is that Jesus paid that price, once and for all, by dying on the cross. Your sin-debt (death) has been paid in full. All you need to do is accept this gift, through your personal faith in Jesus. Thus, all followers of Jesus are not under the same eternal salvation judgment as those who have not made the decision to follow Jesus.
Yet, there is still judgment for followers of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment isn’t an eternal damnation or salvation judgment. For Jesus already took care of that. This judgment is a “How did I live my life?” judgment. It’s not about experiencing heaven someday. It’s about experiencing the kingdom of God today.
If you are a judgmental follower of Jesus, looking down on others who don’t look like you, act like you, talk like you and think like you, you will not be able to experience the fullness of your life, right here and right now, free from God’s judgment. Yes, Jesus’ death on the cross made you right with God and prepared you a place in heaven. But, living a judgmental life will rob you of the blessing of being forgiven by God today.
Thus, it’s in your own self-interest not to be judgmental. Just think about it for a second. How can you experience the fullness of forgiveness in your own life, if you are always walking around judging other people’s lives? The very others who are loved by God and saved by Jesus, just like you. For we are all sinners, saved by grace (Romans 3:23-24)
These principles and many others just like them, are all highlighted in Matthew 7:12, aka The Golden Rule. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” This isn’t a salvation issue. This is a how do I live my life, right here, right now, issue. If you want to experience forgiveness in your own life, start forgiving others. If you want to experience grace in your own life, start being graceful to others. If you want to experience love in your own life, start showing love to others. All of this is truly what is in your own self-interest.