The Selfish Heart

A selfish-hearted person is someone who thinks first and foremost of self. Referred to as self-referencing, self-aggrandizing, or self-absorption, such a person can hardly see beyond oneself. Consumed by self-consideration, such a person can only find satisfaction when their needs are placed at the front of the line. Selfishness is defined as placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests, benefits or welfare above the well-being or regardless of the interests of others. Synonyms include egocentric, parsimonious, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-interested, self-seeking, wrapped up in oneself. It’s the opposite of unselfish, caring and kind. Narcissism is a modern form of excessive or exclusive selfishness. However, no matter the label, the manifestation isn’t pretty to all who surround such a person.

God’s opinion of selfishness is crystal clear. It is an act of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21). It is present wherever disorder and evil is practiced (James 3: 16, 17). It is harbored alongside bitter envy in the heart (James 3: 13-15). It is the opposite of love and humility and contradicts the very heart of God. instead of selfishness, believers are urged by the Apostle Paul, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2: 1-4).

Do nothing out of selfish ambition – those are strong words indeed. Nothing? Yes, nada, says God.

Imagine a life without selfishness. Is it possible? in a world filled with self-everything, can we begin to make a dent in this reality?  Only God’s Spirit can make such a crevice in our heart, separating self from godliness, beginning first in  the internal fibers of our being and extending outward into our words, attitudes, and actions. If the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) is to be evidenced in our hearts and lives, we must lean fully on the Spirit. We cannot break out of our self-centeredness without the Spirit of God residing in our hearts. The selfish heart can only be healed, restored, and redeemed by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the only place where it’s legitimate to be selfish is in the opening up of ourselves to receive God’s Spirit. Finding the time and space to become attentive to God, noticing God, and receiving God is the largest, most looming need of the heart. Pressing the pause button of our fast-paced, me-centered lives and resting in the arms of Almighty God is the greatest comfort we can pursue. Anything less than that is an idol of our selfish heart.

So what will you do today to put your selfish heart into the hands of God, to mold and shape and transform you into a person who reflects God’s heart? Turn your heart toward home, which is the beautiful heart of God…and in prayerful trust, become God’s instrument of tenderness, compassion, and humility toward all who cross your path this and every new day.


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

Steve is a graduate of Northwestern College (IA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.). His prior ministry includes serving on the pastoral staff at Grace Chapel (Lexington, MA) and as president of Vision New England. Since July 1, 2003 Steve has served as founder and president of Leadership Transformations, director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building, and adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Ministry department at Gordon-Conwell. He is the author of sixteen books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective),  Baker bestseller Becoming a Healthy Church, and Crafting a Rule of Life (IVP). He lives in the Boston area with his wife Ruth and is the proud father of two grown children, Rebekah and Nathan, daughter in-love Ashley, and papa to his beloved granddaughter, Brenna Lynn and twin grandsons, Aiden Joseph and Carson Stephen. “My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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