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“Self” on Trial: A Look at Christian Motivation

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As Christian leaders speak out for missions, some have set up “self” as a bogeyman. I regularly hear pastors rail against “self.” Apparently, the lowest insult is that a person be “selfish.”

I don’t accept this understanding of Christian motivation. In fact, “right and wrong” are categories for guiding us in pursuing life; and for any individual man, this means: his own life. Therefore, “self-interest” (a.k.a. selfishness) is the very foundation of morality.

Why Rational Self-Interest?

Christians often denounce “selfishness,” but the Bible shows rational self-interest as our main reason to follow God. Whether we look to the Old or New Testament, to believers, or to the God whom they serve, we see self-interest. We should check our understanding of the concept of “self-interest.” Those who denounce self-interest say we should follow Jesus because of who he is, but not because of what he can do for us. Is that what the Bible says?

God the Father is self-interested:

Psalm 115:3

He does all that he pleases.

What Is Christian Individualism?

I advocate Christian Individualism. How can I do that? Many Christians believe Individualism is bad. Many believe it is incompatible with Scripture. Others believe Scripture has little to say on the issue.

It’s a hot topic. In a recent video by The Gospel Coalition, Don Carson said, “The Bible does not go around condemning individualism.” So what does the Bible say?

Why It’s Not “Better” To Give

I often hear the misquote: “It is better to give than to receive.”

Paul relays this maxim from Jesus in Acts 20:35.

The error? Jesus did not say “It is better…” Rather, he said, “It is more blessed…”

Why Be Moral?

When you ask “why be moral?” your answer needs to be more than, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” That is circular. What makes something the right thing? What goal does a man achieve by doing right?

Some answer that, “Virtue is it’s own reward.” Others answer that “Morality benefits others, and that is what really matters.”

But what motivation does Scripture offer? Your life. Your reward.