Sometimes the things that you do say more about who you really are than you’d like for them to.
Unless you’re a sociopath, you probably like to think of yourself as a good person who generally treats people well and contributes to society in positive ways. This point of view can be great if it’s true. But what if it’s not as true as you’d like it to be?
Truth is that we all struggle with selfishness: It’s the foundational sin that causes all sorts of problems in our lives. In our society, though, and especially in Christian circles, it can be easy to hide our selfishness behind polished exteriors. But it often still remains, and one of the best ways to identify it is to take a look at the ways that you think about and behave with your money.
The Bible teaches us that money can make slaves of us in all sorts of ways. Some of those ways are overt; others, like selfishness, are sneaky and difficult to see… unless you’re willing to take a hard, honest look at yourself.
You may think that you’re a good person, and that you’re handling your money well. But if you don’t make a conscious effort to be giving and unselfish, selfishness can creep into your attitudes and make a slave of you from inside your own heart.
Think I’m overstating it? Maybe not. Here are five signs that you might be a slave to selfishness; see if you recognize any of these from your own life.
1) You think the world owes you something.
You believe that you’re talented, special, and should be rewarded for your extraordinary gifts and abilities. You grew up surrounded by comfort and a high standard of living, and you expect to enjoy that same luxury throughout your life. When you encounter challenges, you feel as though the world is being unfair to you. You have an eagle eye for seeing injustice being done to you, but you are blind to the injustices taking place in the world around you.
2) You use relationships to get, not to give.
You’re constantly looking to your family members to give you things, help you with problems and meet your needs… but you rarely show up to help them in the same ways that they help you. You’re strategic — some might say conniving — in the way you chose your friends. You build relationships with people that you think can benefit you or help you get ahead. You don’t have time for anyone who isn’t of use to you. And you have no problem abandoning old friendships if flashier, more lucrative opportunities come along.
3) You’re oblivious to those in need around you.
You spend so much time thinking about your own life, needs and opportunities that you don’t really recognize the needs of people around you. You don’t really know anyone who is struggling financially, and you never visit the part of town where you might see real poverty. When you see images of poverty in the media, you turn the page, change the channel or mute the sound. And when the topic of the poor in your community comes up in conversation, you’re quick to blame them for their own problems, and slow to consider what you could do to help them.
4) You justify your lack of generosity.
You know that giving is a good thing, but also think that you have good reasons for not doing it. You believe that your particular life challenges and extenuating circumstances excuse you from God’s commandments of generosity. You tell yourself that you’ll start giving once you get that next raise, finish saving money for your next home, or get the kids out of the house. There are plenty of other people out there to give, you tell yourself, so it’s okay to let them carry the burden of caring for other people. You have enough burdens to carry for yourself.
5) You give publicly.
You don’t have any problem giving money away — in fact, you love the way that it makes you feel, and you love it when other people know exactly how generous you’re being. You attend every fundraiser and charity auction that you can, and you’re excited about the visibility and opportunities that might come about when others see what a kindhearted person you are. Your ultimate dream would be to have a public building named in your honor because you gave so much money toward having it built.
If you recognize yourself any of those descriptions, it’s a clue that selfish motivations may be controlling you more than you’d like to admit. I would know: I’ve found myself stuck in each of those attitudes at one time or another.
Hope is not lost, though. God’s purpose for you is to be generous, to be compassionate and to be selfless. If you begin by obeying Him in the things He asks you to do — tithe, care for the poor, show generosity to friends and neighbors — He will change your heart and set you free from the slavery of selfishness.
Photo by Dan Foy. Used under Creative Commons License.