Category Archives: Giving

12 Signs Of Selfishness

We’ve been doing a series at The River called ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ – dealing with attitudes and issues that put walls between people and work against friendships and relationships.

So on Sunday I dealt with a particularly nasty wall-maker in our lives – one that makes others put up walls against us to protect themselves, and an area that can be particularly difficult for us to see in our own character… the wall of ‘Selfishness’.

Most people don’t think of themselves as particularly selfish, it’s usually an attribute that we’re quicker to label others with! But it’s something that we need to root out of our lives if we’re going to have good friendships and relationships.

So is selfishness at work in your life? I’ve compiled a quick 12-point checklist…

1) You have high expectations of what other people should do for you, and you feel angry or irritated when they don’t meet your expectations

Selfish people generally have high expectations of others and a clear idea of what others should be doing for them.

2) You think a lot about what you’re entitled to, and you feel angry or irritated when you don’t get what you feel you deserve

Selfish people are all about their rights, and they take full advantage of them. It’s not that it’s bad to know and use our rights, but truly selfish people would sooner end or endure a difficult relationship than have to budge on what they feel they’re entitled to.

3) You spend a lot of time thinking about why more people aren’t helping you

Everyone has problems going on in their life, but selfish people are consumed with why everyone else isn’t ‘doing what they should’ to help them.

4) You move people in and out of your life based on how useful they are to get you to where you want to go

It’s great to have a vision for life, but selfish people use others to get to their vision and dispense with them quickly once they lose their usefulness. This one can be a tough area for leaders – but in leadership it’s important that we remember that the vision is there to serve the people… not the other way around!

5) You often find yourself surrounded by selfish people

If the majority of people around your life seem to be quite selfish to you… the problem may not actually be with them!

6) If you’re asked to help with a need your primary concern is how helping out will affect you

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into consideration our own time and energy levels – it’s good to think through what a commitment means to us before we make it. But there’s times when we just have to jump in and help someone… maybe it’s incovenient for us, but it’s the right thing to do at the time. Selfish people can’t see past their own priorities to the needs of others.

7) You find yourself on the end of conflict often, but it’s never your fault, and you don’t say sorry easily

Selfish people often find themselves in conflict, because the people around their life get tired of having to put up with their selfishness. But because of #1, #2, #3 and #5 – selfish people often don’t see that they’re the cause of the conflict! So they usually won’t apologise because they don’t feel like they’re the problem!

8) You find it hard to rejoice when others get blessed, or get the spotlight

Selfish people see the limelight and accolades as just rewards for their effort. They struggle when the spotlight is on someone else, because then people aren’t noticing the important contribution they feel like they’ve made which is connected to…

9) You want to make sure that you receive proper recognition for the things you do, and you get miffed if you don’t

Selfish people want to be noticed and want to receive what they believe is their ‘due entitlement’ (#2). So recognition by others (and especially by important people) is vital for them. Everyone finds it hard if they’re contribution is overlooked, but for a selfish person – they just can’t let it go… it eats away at them.

10) You like being in control of things and you find it very hard to compromise on what you want

Selfish people are usually uncompromising and have a very clear idea of what they want and how everyone needs to behave so that they can get it!

11) You keep a personal tally of what you’ve done for other people

Selfish people don’t GIVE… they TRADE. Even if they look like they’re giving, they’re still trading. They keep a personal tally of when and how they’ve served, given, blessed and done things for others. They want to make sure that the ‘balance’ of giving and serving and them receiving their rewards stacks up. Selfless people on the other hand, just give… because it’s all for God anyway.

12) You are the star or the centre in most of the stories, experiences and events that you share in conversation with other people

Selfish people don’t have conversations – they have monologues and soliloquies with an audience. Selfless people understand that conversations need to be two way, and endeavour to include others and bring out what’s inside them. Selfish people just want everyone to focus on them.
Naturally we’ve all got a bit of selfishness on the inside of us. If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

3 Quick Tips For Becoming More Self-Less

1) Have a huge view of the super-abundance of God

Selfish people generally have a scarcity mentality – they don’t believe there’s enough to go around, so they make sure that they get ‘their share’. The more we see that in God there’s an abundance for all that we need and more – the easier it is to hold lightly to stuff. We can rejoice in the blessing of others, because we know that it’s not taking away from our blessing! There’s more than enough!

2) Have a mindset of humility

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3

To ‘regard one another as more important than ourselves’ means that we treat every person we come across the same way that we would treat someone that we highly esteem. We take into consideration their needs and do our best to serve in every situation.

3) Give generously

Give. Not trade!

Giving our time, energy and money to others with no desire or expectation for return is a great way for us to keep selfishness far from us. Maybe this is why Jesus said that when we give we should do it in secret. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ‘payback’ when no-one knows that it was you who gave!

Self-Less

Finally, a very simple way for us to embrace a selfless life is to simply live ‘self…less’. Jesus didn’t call us to be ‘self-none’, just ‘self-less’. In every situation we find ourselves in, there’s an opportunity for us to take a little less for ourseves, so that others can have a little more. Ask one more question about the other person in conversation. Leave something on the buffet table for the one who’s coming after you. Take 5 minutes out of your day to do something that will really be a blessing to someone else.

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An Acceptable Offering

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” – Genesis 4:3-5

I’m pretty passionate about worship! But in more recent years I’ve seen an increasing emphasis across the church seeing worship as something that ‘does it for me’.

Certainly, taking time to worship God has a positive effect on our lives – but it’s not the primary reason we worship, nor should it be our primary motivation. Worship isn’t about God pleasing our hearts – it’s about us pleasing His!

What I think is interesting about this verse is that God did not look on Cain’s offering with favour. It’s easy for us to think that God will accept an offering of worship from us, simply because we’ve taken the time to do it. Cain sure took the time to do it, and not only that but it was probably much harder work for him to dig up some vegetables and clean them up to bring to God, rather than for Abel to select a lamb and sacrifice it. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s offering, and not with Cain’s. He didn’t just take it because it was brought – he was looking for something in particular.

So just because we bring an offering – it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to please God’s heart. We have to look past just what we like, or what does it for us, and ask the same question that Abel did… what does God want? What does it for Him? For Cain, that would have meant getting outside his own comfort zone, and doing something that didn’t come as naturally to him.

Strength Through Softness

Romans 15:1 – Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Sometimes it doesn’t massively please us to have to put up with other people’s weaknesses!  We’d rather they just sort it out, or we don’t have to deal with them. 

But I prove myself as a mature believer, and display the strength that I claim to have, by loving others and helping them in their weakness. Not by cutting and running, but by helping and building.  While it may be easier to do what pleases me – it’s not helpful for the building up of the body. 

So if we claim to be strong, mature believers – this will be tested and evidenced by how we deal with the weaknesses of other people.  It takes huge commitment and strength to continue to show mercy and love when it’s taking a toll on us. 

But this is what Jesus demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to us!

The Secret To Abundance

1 Kings 17:13 – Elijah said to her, Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said; but make me of it a little cake first, and bring it forth to me, and afterward make for you and for your son.

Elijah is told by God to go and receive hospitality from a most unlikely source – a widow in Zarephath.  He has to receive hospitality from a woman who has been through pain, in a place that is despised by Israelites. 

He asks for water and a small morsel of bread.  She gives him her vision for life – that she will make a small cake, that she and her son will eat it, and then they will die!  But God has a bigger plan for this woman and son than one more meal before death! 

The oil and flour never ran dry for this woman – and here’s the key that Elijah gave her to walk in this abundance:

1) Don’t be afraid.  Fear will hold us back from the correct action.  Anytime we do something that is motivated by fear, we make the wrong decision.  Fear and faith both act – but fear acts negatively, faith acts positively. 

2) Go and do as you said.  Get on and live your life, do the things that you need to do.  Often the will of God is not necessarily a complete shift of your life to doing something that you’ve never done before.  It’s to continue doing what you’re doing, but approach it with vision and faith. 

3) Make me a little cake first.  Make sure that the FIRST things you do are to seek first the kingdom of God.  Give the first of your abundance and energy to serving His purposes.  This woman didn’t have enough to look after herself – but the key was to give to God first. 

4) Afterwards, make a cake for you and your son.  Step 3 has to happen before step 4 can happen.  The final command that Elijah gives this woman is impossible.  But she can do steps 1-3.  The call of God for us is impossible, but we can always take the initial actions. 

God Needs It

Luke 19:33-34 (NIV)
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"  They replied, "The Lord needs it."

Seriously – does God NEED anything?  The short answer is no.  God has all resources, all power, all knowledge, all wisdom – he doesn’t need anything from anyone.  He’s the only person in the universe who can lay claim to being totally ‘self-sufficient’!

But the Jesus needed a colt, a donkey to ride on.  Although He had access to unlimited supernatural power and probably could have made one appear at will – instead He asks for it from those who have one. 

Most of the time we live with the illusion that we actually own stuff in this life.  If we think about it, we realise that everything that we have actually already came from Him.  You may have bought a new LCD TV.  But the particles that make up that TV were originally created and put together by God.  Humans have never ‘created’ anything – we’ve only ever modified what God put there in the first place!  The earth and everything in it really is the Lord’s!

So these owners have a donkey – a prized possession for a Jewish household.  Jesus asks for it – and they give it willingly and without complaint.  Then Jesus rides in to Jerusalem on their donkey.  Imagine how proud they would have been afterwards… ‘this’ is the donkey that Jesus rode on! 

We never lose anything when we put it back into God’s hands.  It might seem like we do for a while, but in the end – whatever we invest into the Kingdom of God will bless a multitude of people, as well as us!

Diligence Rules

Proverbs 12:24 – The hands of the diligent ones shall rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

Some proverbs are just so straightforward they barely need any further explanation.  This is one of them!

The hands of the diligent shall rule – the ones who are diligent with what God has given them will be leaders and rulers.  But those who are lazy will end up in slave labour. 

This is often seen with debt – many times laziness is a key reason that people live beyond their means and end up owing large amounts of money.  When this happens, they can wind up on the treadmill of debt-repayment, essentially becoming slaves to those whom they’ve borrowed from. 

Conversely, those who are diligent with their money and possessions may have a harder time at the start, but will end up ruling and in a position of power.