Upside Down: “Selfishness”

Upside Down: “Selfishness”
A Message on 2 Timothy 3:1-9
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
March 4, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

2 Timothy 3:1-9 (NRSV)

You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! 6 For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, 7 who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. 9 But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.

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There’s a story about a very wealthy man riding down the road in his limousine when he notices two men on the side of the road. The men are eating grass. He orders his driver to stop and back up to the men. He gets out and asks them, “Why are you eating grass?”


“Because we are poor and we don’t have any food. The only thing we have to eat is grass.”


“Come and go with me,” the wealthy man said.


“But I have a wife and three kids,” said one man. “And I have a wife and six kids,” said the other.”


“Fine! Bring them too!”


So both families piled into the limo and the wealthy man asked to driver to drive to his house.


One of the poor men said, “This really is nice of you to do this. We appreciate our generosity.”


The wealthy man replied, “Oh, you will love my place. The grass there is almost a foot high!


Today we are continuing our sermon series “Upside Down” by looking at a topic the world tells us is good and which the Bible tells us is bad: selfishness.


In the scripture we read today from 2 Timothy, we find Paul giving advice to his young protege Timothy. Paul is describing the “last days” and the characteristics people will exhibit at that time.


Now I have seen this scripture posted on Facebook and other social media as proof that we are living in the end times. And in reading the list I can see where people might get that idea. But I also know that the Bible quotes Jesus as saying that nobody is going to know when the end times will be, so I don’t worry about it too much.


Now, let’s talk about that list. I’m going to read it again and want you to think about these characteristics and contemplate how many of these fit under the umbrella of selfishness.


Here they are: “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”


How many of these characteristics are associated with selfishness? Most of them, aren’t they? Kinda scary, isn’t it, just how much power selfishness can have.


Selfishness is putting your own wants and needs in front of others. It is the opposite of humbleness, which we talked about a few weeks ago.


I like to think of selfishness as like a two-year-old child screaming “Mine!” when another toddler wants a toy, even if the two-year old isn’t playing with it. It’s the girlfriend in Toby Keith’s song, “I Wanna Talk about Me.”


The Bible talks a lot about selfishness. And in case you didn’t know, it isn’t in favor of it.


“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)


“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1John 3:17)


“Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.” (I Corinthians 10:24)


“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)


“Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26)


Get the picture?


This past week I was surprised to witness an act of selflessness, not selfishness, of all places on morning television.


Now I don’t watch morning television normally. Having a bachelor’s degree in journalism it raises my blood pressure to see what passes as “news” during those morning “news” shows. But Pam will sometimes turn one of them on, and this past week that was the case.


It happened to be “Good Morning, America,” and I don’t even remember the story they were doing. As part of the hosts’ witty repartee, though, someone told host Michael Strahan, “Yeah, but you won the Super Bowl.” (Strahan used to be a defensive end for the New York Giants.)


Without missing a beat Michael replied, “Fifty-three guys won the super bowl.” If you didn’t know it, there are 53 players on an NFL roster.


Now Michael could have accepted the compliment and moved on, but he felt it was important to point out that he was only one member of a team of 53 that won the Super Bowl in 2007.


Now I don’t know much about Michael Strahan but I certainly will give him a tip of the hat for that his comments. And it was refreshing to see something so opposite to what the world tells us.


The world tells us to be selfish. It’s all about me. Look out for number one. I am the greatest. But Jesus turns the world upside down and tells us that selfishness is bad, is not a good thing. I am convinced that you can’t be a follower of Jesus and be selfish. The term “selfish Christian” is an oxymoron, a phrase that contradicts itself.


Max Lucado wrote a book several years ago titled, It’s Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy. It’s a great little book which reminds us that as Christians we serve interests bigger than our own. Here’s what Max writes: “God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.”


Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross because he was not selfish. His concern was not on himself, but on those who needed reconciling to God. He willingly gave himself on the cross for those who couldn’t save themselves. He gave himself for sinners, sinners like us. That’s why we have the Lord’s Supper, so that we will remember his selfless sacrifice out of love for us. That’s why we have baptism: it’s not about what we do, but it is God at work in the water and the spirit.


So my challenge to you this week is to not be selfish. In your conversations this week be conscious of how many times you used the word “I” or “me.” Don’t make it all about you. Make it all about Jesus. Talk about Jesus more than you talk about yourself. People are hungry for Jesus. And if you see people that are so hungry they are eating grass, please not only tell them about Jesus but give them some food.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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