this is not one of my favorite chapters in the book, not because it was the most convicting, but because i think it could have addressed more and pointed us more to the gospel. bridges does tie it in a little bit at the end, but for a behavior oriented moralist like me, this chapter sounds all to familiar to the "change your behavior stuff" i grew up thinking. i will go ahead and summarize, but i am also going to expound a lot too.
bridges starts the chapter with an illustration about kids not wanting to share and taking a toy and saying, "mine," or "i don't want you to have it." children hardly looking out for the interests of others. he points out that as we get older, those thought patterns do not go away, they just flesh out in more socially acceptable ways. none of us would throw a temper tantrum if someone else got what we wanted, but i think we could all admit to a time when we were jealous or mad that someone got some thing that we did not. we all struggle with selfishness. and it is much easier to point out in someone elses life rather than our own. in fact we can identify it easily because we act and think the same way.
he addresses four specific areas of selfishness in this chapter, admitting that there are so many more!
first, he talks about being selfish with our interests and talking about ourselves and what we like rather than listening. i think we do this for many reasons. a) we like ourselves. we are our favorite subject. everyone should know about something as great as us. b) we are insecure. if we sell ourselves as great or noble or generous or whatever, then people will like us and think we are great and affirm us. c) or we just do not care about someone else and don't want to get involved with listening to them, so we will just keep talking. we are indeed "lovers of self" (2 tim 3:2).
secondly he says we are selfish with our time. "i am entitled to my time and don't ask for any of it. "do you know how busy i am? i have things to do." "that is not my job. someone else needs to do that." the root of what we are saying can boiled down to this, "sorry, i have my own kingdom to build." bridges points out that we are called to bear one another's burdens (gal 6:2). sadly, we often do not want to or we are just too busy to even notice others burdens.
thirdly, bridges talks about being selfish with our money. i don't think anyone could argue against that. the bible tells us over and over again how we are to care for those in need (the poor, the widow, the orphan, the homeless) but how much of our budget actually goes to that?
lastly, he talks about being inconsiderate. we often do not think about the impact our words or actions have on someone else. we are often so concerned with our agenda or our pressing need, that we do not think about how we express it or we trample over others in the process.
bridges writes, "the selfish person not only is indifferent to the needs of others but actually expects them to meet his needs and desires" (106). so true!
so what is the gospel response to this? it is more than just "quit thinking about yourself and think about others." it is a call to look at the gospel. not only is jesus a perfect example of someone who was unselfish, but his gospel frees me from my selfishness. because i am loved by him, i do not have to worry about talking about myself, i can actually listen and hear others. because i know that he is on control, i do not have to worry about interruptions to my plan or my time. in fact, the notion of my time does not exist. i know that all is his and that the reason i am here is to glorify him and if there is an interruption, i know that he has something that will bring glory to his name, more than my plan, even if it ruins all of my plans. his power and provision in the cross and resurrection free me from the love of money. rather than storing up here or working to buy things here that will make my life more comfortable, i look for how i can use all that i have so that he can be glorified and i trust that he will provide.. and because i do not have to worry about myself, the gospel causes me to think of others to want them to know love like this. as i look around, i seek ways to build the body and serve others so that christ can be glorified. i am not worried about me because i know that christ is more than enough.