The Root of Sin Is Unbelief

The Lifeblood of Sin Is Selfishness

from The Spoken Word

Though unbelief in the goodness of God and the reliability of God’s Word is the root of sin, selfishness is its sustaining lifeblood.

We are prone to distrust God when we think He is not giving us all the things we need to live a happy, satisfying, secure life. We are even more prone to distrust Him when we believe He is allowing bad things to happen to us — either by not stopping them from happening or by not correcting them in a timely manner. We deal with our disappointments and frustrations with God by relying on ourselves to work things out our own way for our own good.

Distrust of God is the underlying basis for believing that love, though noble in intent, is often impractical in practice — especially when faced with inconsiderate, unkind, or abusive people and unfair circumstances. We deal with love’s perceived shortcomings by concluding that some of the things God says are wrong, are really right. In our estimation, some of the things God prohibits are the only practical way, or the most expedient way, or the necessary way, given the situation. This is why seemingly good Christians exploit others to get more for themselves, ignore the needs of others to keep more for themselves, manipulate or abusively coerce others into cooperating with them, and return evil for evil to protect themselves.

Acting selfishly doesn’t mean we don’t know the difference between right and wrong. It means we are unwilling to think in terms of right and wrong as regards the good of everyone affected in any way by our choices and behavior. We set aside the way of love (seeking the good of everyone) for the way of self-centeredness (seeking the good of self, first and foremost). We set aside love’s unchangeable standard of right and wrong for a self-centered standard which makes self-interest the basis for determining right from wrong.

Consider how this truth played out in Adam and Eve’s first experience with sin. First, they stopped trusting God to provide them with all they needed to have a happy, satisfying, secure life. Second, they stopped thinking about right and wrong in relation to protecting the good of everyone affected by their choices and behavior. Third, they switched to a standard of right and wrong which made it reasonable to justify doing what they knew was wrong. In fact, they soared to such heights of foolish thinking that they joined together in doing what they knew would kill them both.

And what was the result of their sin? We have all suffered immeasurably, and unnecessarily. We’ve lost the perfect life in the perfect environment where a face-to-face relationship with God was a daily occurrence. We suffer the burden of hard and sometimes fruitless work to survive. Women endure pain in childbirth. We face the challenges of nature and the destructiveness of natural disasters. Our bodies are attacked by injuries, diseases, illnesses, and infirmities. Our minds are affected by evil thoughts, fears, discouragement, depression, and insanity. We grow old, only to suffer the ailments and disabilities of old age. We die, and most often it is not a pleasant death. In other words, we live under the influence, the power, and the destructive consequences of sin because of their choice to sin.

Adam and Eve chose self-gratification over the interests of God, the welfare of their children, and the future well-being of all mankind. But, you may ask, why not? If the most powerful being in the universe cannot be trusted to promote or protect our good, should we not take matters into our own hands and do what we think is best for ourselves?

Never!! But, you may ask again, why not!?! Because no one can distrust God and take matters into his own hands to seek his own good without turning from that which is true love to that which is truly selfish.

Capture this truth and stake your life on it. In whatever way or area of life you distrust God, in that way or area you become selfish. In becoming selfish, you make the good of self your priority and allow the good of others to become a lesser concern. Being self-centered, you neglect or jeopardize the good of others through your efforts to promote and protect your own interests.

More Examples of Selfishness

After forty years of wandering in the desert, Israel was finally ready to enter the Promised Land. The first obstacle facing them was Jericho — a huge, walled, fortress-like city. Lacking a well-trained army and the weapons to defeat such a city, Israel needed a miracle. Joshua, Israel’s leader, went to God. God told Joshua to have the Israelites march around Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. After the seventh time, seven priests were to blow one long blast on their trumpets. When the trumpets sounded the Israelites were to give forth a great shout, and the walls of Jericho would fall down.

When the Israelites had marched around Jericho the seventh time on the seventh day, Joshua reminded them that Jericho and all that was in it belonged to the Lord. Every inhabitant of the city was to be destroyed, except Rahab and those who lived with her. All the gold, silver, bronze, and iron were to be turned over to the treasury of the Lord. Everything else was to be left behind. Joshua warned them that if anyone disobeyed and took anything for themselves, it would bring God’s punishment on the whole camp of Israel. Then the priests blew their trumpets, the people shouted, the walls of Jericho fell flat, and the Israelites took the city.

In taking the city the Israelites discovered great wealth. They followed God’s directions and turned it in to the treasury of the Lord, with one exception. Achan, an Israelite soldier, kept a beautiful robe, five pounds of silver, and 1 1/4 pounds of gold for himself. He had heard the warning. He knew that the consequences would mean trouble for all of Israel. But to improve his own financial situation, Achan selfishly jeopardized the well-being of every other Israelite.

God’s punishment on Israel for Achan’s sin was the withdrawal of His power and protection in battle. As a result, they were sent running in retreat in their next attempt at overthrowing a city, and thirty-six soldiers lost their lives. Upon finding out whose sin had brought this punishment from God on Israel, they put Achan and his entire family to death. (Note: )

This may seem unnecessarily harsh since Achan didn’t take very much. And it wasn’t as if he committed murder or adultery. He was simply trying to improve his financial situation so he could get a good start in a new homeland. What is so bad about that? Why would God make such a big deal out of such a seemingly small sin? To get a clearer picture of the size of Achan’s sin, consider its affect on others.

First, successful sinners influence others to sin. Israel needed God’s power and protection as they settled their new homeland. And they needed His provision and protection to live there in peace the rest of their lives. God gives His power, provision, and protection to the righteous — those who live according to the ways of love. He withholds it from the unrighteous, because He does not want to encourage selfishness by rewarding it or making it safe for sinners to go on in their self-centeredness. If Achan could sin and get away with it within two weeks of entering the Promised Land, how long would it be before most of the other Israelites followed his example? And who would suffer the most yet deserve that suffering the least when God withdrew His power, provision, and protection? The children and grandchildren. Therefore, because sin influences others to sin and thus increases the destructive effects of sin, Achan’s sin was humongous.

Second, sin always starts small, but grows to devastating proportions. Achan took what belonged to God when he took the robe, silver, and gold from Jericho. It may not have been much, but it reflects his attitude toward God and his fellowman – an attitude which is arrogantly self-centered. A person steals because he believes the gratification of his needs or wants are more important than the happiness and well-being of the one he is stealing from. A person steals because he believes his needs or wants give him the right to take for his own use that which belongs to another. A person steals because he believes it is better for the one stolen from to unjustly suffer loss than for him to endure the unpleasantness of doing without something he needs or wants. If Achan would think so little of God as to steal from Him, what would stop him from stealing from his fellow Israelites? And though he stole a small amount this time, wouldn’t the fact that he profited and got away with it prompt him to steal more the next time, and the next time, and the next time? Because stealing from God reveals a contemptuous, arrogantly self-centered attitude toward all humanity, and because sin grows, all Israel was faced with a growing threat to their well-being. Therefore, Achan’s sin was humongous.

Third, sin always victimizes one or more people who had nothing to do with the sin. Thirty-six Israelite soldiers unjustly and unnecessarily lost their lives. They were not given a choice in the matter, they were victims of Achan’s sin. But the cost to others did not stop there. Among these thirty-six men were husbands, fathers, and first-born sons. This means the families who lost these men lost someone vital to their well-being. Again, these families were not given a choice in the matter. These families were left in a saddened, crippled condition — not because of some wrong or foolish thing they had done, but solely because of Achan’s sin. From the victims’ viewpoint, Achan’s sin was humongous.

Selfishness, though socially acceptable in many instances and seemingly insignificant in many situations, is a devastating curse which causes incalculable and often irreparable harm to victim and sinner alike.

Tanya wanted to be loved because it made her feel so good. To satisfy her want she developed a relationship with Steven, a fellow who wanted to be loved, too. Their relationship grew from joking and superficial conversation to sharing deeply personal things. They went from casual friendship to believing they were meant for each other. Tanya and Steven had finally found someone with whom they felt safe and comfortable; someone who made them feel special and sought after; someone who made them feel really good. But Tanya and Steven were married — and not to each other. They brushed aside this fact as they pursued love and intimacy with each other. They ignored the fact that they were on a course that would cause their spouses and children needless pain. They overlooked the fact that they claimed to be Christians, and therefore their actions would bring shame on the name of God and His church. What they didn’t neglect was their desire to feel good. In their quest, they went so far as to became sexually involved with each other. In time, their affair became public knowledge.

Tanya and Steven were not children, or even young adults. Both were old enough to know better. Both criticized their spouses for not loving them the way they wanted to be loved. Both clearly stated how they wanted to be loved, and who needed to change what to give them the love they desired. This means they were able to identify selfish behavior and its consequences. It shows they had a clear idea of right and wrong. Yet both of them selfishly pursued their own gratification without concern for the unnecessary and unjust damage they would do to their families, their Church, and to the name of God.

You may think Tanya and Steven are horrible sinners — and they are. You probably feel certain you would never do such a thing yourself — and maybe you wouldn’t. Yet they are no worse than the rest of us. Why? Because the same distrustful self-centeredness which motivated them is, too often, the motive behind our choices and behavior. Like them, though in our estimation on a much smaller and almost justifiable scale, we choose self-interest over the good of others, needlessly hurting them in the process.

Peg grew up in a Christian home, and for the most part had a good childhood. She married, had four children, and continued to attend Church with some regularity. She said she believed in God, loved her children, and wanted to love her husband — but he was not so easy to love. He kept asking her to do things — like care about him, parent the children better, be more responsible with household duties, and show as much interest in the good of their family as she did in her crafts and her friends.

After years of making the same requests and seeing almost no progress, he felt deeply discouraged and genuinely unloved. In frustration and hurt he turned mean around the house and began looking for love and happiness outside the home. Yet Peg continued to live what seemed to be a naive, blind to reality, it’s not my fault, he’s the bad guy, kind of life. She clearly saw his faults (and he had many), but she would not look at her own. She wanted him to change, but she would not take seriously her need to change. She knew what was right when it came to his treatment of her, but she would not do what was right when it came to her treatment of him. The truth is, Peg was as much the cause of suffering in her home as her husband.

Why would such a seemingly nice person like Peg, who was liked by her friends and pitied by all who heard her side of the story, continue to do so much damage to her marriage and family? Because Peg hated conflict, discord, facing personal faults and failures, or any other thing that might result in feelings of rejection or unhappiness. She wanted to feel loved and happy all the time. If she had to overlook the truth about herself or anyone else to get the feelings she wanted, she did. She kept herself from facing the truth by focusing her attention on thoughts and activities that brought her the good feelings she wanted. She even altered reality in her own mind — focusing her thoughts on what she wished were true rather than what was true — in an effort to feel better. In fulfilling her commitment to feel good, she acted as if it made no difference to her that she was hurting her husband and damaging their relationship.

Peg was selfish and self-deceived. She was as selfish as any of the others in the preceding examples, for she was as willing as they to harm others for personal happiness. But then, is Peg any different than the rest of us?
Why Distrust of God Leads to Selfishness

The opposite of selfishness is love. Selfishness seeks the good of self to the neglect of or at the expense of the good of others. Love seeks the good of everyone affected in any way by its choices and behavior. And love sometimes promotes or protects the good of others to the point of sacrificing its own good, even its own life.

Selfishness believes we must make our own happiness and well-being a priority to get the happiness and satisfaction we deserve in life. Love believes we must make the good of God and the well-being of others a priority so everyone, including us, can get the happiness and satisfaction we all deserve in life.

Selfishness is based on the premise that we must look out for our own good, first and foremost, because no one else seems willing or able to do it in the way it needs to be done. Love is based on the premise that it is perfectly safe to make the good of others equal to or greater than the good of self because God, who is greater than ourselves, is devoted to promoting and protecting our good.

This is an important point. It is our nature to love only as far as we can ensure the good of self. If we are to love others as much as ourselves, we need someone greater than ourselves to ensure our good so we can unselfishly promote and protect the good of others. Therefore, to love others as ourselves we must be convinced that God has sufficient power, wisdom, and ability to look out for our good. Then we must be convinced that God is using and will use His power, wisdom, and ability to promote and protect our good in every situation — even when we put our own well-being at risk in doing good for others. Finally, we must act on our faith by placing ourselves in God’s hands as we take our focus off of self-good and make the good of others our primary focus.

Because God’s love is astoundingly perfect, because His power is infinite, because His wisdom is unchallengeable, and His father’s heart unequaled, He is the one being who naturally has what it takes to be our provider and protector. Because He guarantees we can never seek the good of others at a cost to self greater than what He will cover, we are free to love without fear for our own well-being. Truly, we can never out-love God’s love for us. We can never out-give God’s giving to us. Whatever it costs us to love others, God covers. Therefore, we are free to love others without fear of what such a denial of self might cost because God ’s provision and protection is sufficient to cover any cost incurred.

Selfishness comes to life when we assume God is unwilling or unable to cover the costs of loving others in the same way we want to be loved. This means our own good becomes the deciding factor when determining how far we will go in loving others. In other words, distrust of God brings us to the conviction that we must depend on selfishness, at least in some situations, so we can have the happy, satisfying, secure life we deserve. Therefore, when we are distrustfully self-centered and we think the good of self is at risk, we willfully turn from the noble life-style of love to the more expedient life-style of self-centeredness.
A Further Definition of Selfishness

To better understand what selfishness is it is important to understand what it isn’t. We are not selfish when we want food, clothing, shelter, good health, education, transportation, or any other thing needful and beneficial for living a full and satisfying life. We are not selfish if we desire to satisfy our natural appetites, passions, and impulses. We are not selfish when we want to be loved and accepted. We are not selfish when we want a loving, happy family, a safe neighborhood, a good community in which to raise children, and a nation where the people are free to do what is right. We are not selfish when we desire to have employment which pays a livable wage. We are not selfish if we want to avoid unnecessary and unjust frustration, hardship, injury, pain, or physical need. We are not selfish if we desire to be happy. All these wants and desires are a normal part of the human life. It is not selfish to want to satisfy them.

However, if in gratifying a normal desire we disregard the good of God and/or harm others in some way, we turn what God created for good into something selfish.

The desire for food is a normal desire given to us by God for our good. The purpose of food is to strengthen our body. The pleasure of taste is an added bonus, making a necessary task an enjoyable task. If we over-eat for the pleasure of eating so that we grow fat while others go hungry, we turn something good into something selfish. We go from satisfying our appetite to gratifying our taste buds. We also turn something good into something selfish when we use the pleasure of eating to ease the pain of bad experiences, sorrow, and depression. In such cases, we turn from responsibly dealing with the difficulties of life to trying to offset or compensate for our problems through mind-numbing pleasure.

The desire for security is as normal as the desire for food. True security is found in God. His intention is to use the sanctuary of a loving home and caring community to give us the security we need. His purpose for being our foundational source of security is to free us from the excessive and relationship damaging behavior of self-centeredness when confronted with insecurity from real or imagined hurts, traumas, future needs, and the unknown.

If we pursue security in unnatural ways, such as through a secure job with a secure company with the best benefits, we turn something good into something selfish. Seeking security through employment leads to the neglect of important relationships (lack of time for God, family, other Christians), curtailing evangelism (can’t do it at work, don’t have enough time after work), and compromising what we know is right (so as not to lose advancement or the job itself). Seeking security against possible future needs through savings accounts, insurance policies, and retirement funds leads to ungenerous or grudging support of the pressing needs of the day, such as missions and relief for suffering people (hungry, homeless, sick). Seeking the security of being in control leads to coercing or manipulating people into doing what we want.

God wants us to be secure, but looking for security in wrong places or in wrong ways feeds self-centered behavior. Real, lasting security comes from putting our lives in God’s hands and living according to His Word. It comes from trusting God to be our provider and protector so we are free to focus our attention on seeking His good and the well-being of others.

Selfish gratification travels the descending path from bad to worse. However small or innocently we begin, self-gratification compels us to use unnatural means to satisfy normal desires. This is true of the alcoholic, the drug addict, the sexually promiscuous, the homosexual, the rapist, the child molester, those involved in pornography, those involved in witchcraft, the tyrant (be he the ruler of a nation or the bully in his home), the murderer, the physically or emotionally abusive, the gossip, the thief, the swindler, the jealous, the one who delights in getting even, the conceited, the chronic liar, the businessman who behaves like Scrooge, the employee who cheats his employer, and the one who causes or fuels dissension and strife. If we find ourselves satisfying normal desires, God-given desires, and intrinsically unselfish desires through unnatural means it is because we have become self-centered in our pursuits.

Not all desires are sinful. Nor is it selfish to want to satisfy our natural, normal desires. Within the boundaries of love we can satisfy our normal desires to our heart’s content. We turn selfish when we make the fulfillment of our normal desires more important than the good of God and the well-being of others. We go farther down the path of selfishness when we choose to gratify our normal desires through unnatural means. But it doesn’t have to be this way. God has given us the means to satisfy every natural, normal desire without going outside the boundaries of love — without doing what we know is wrong and harming others unnecessarily in the process.

The Appeal of the Good Life

The focus and benefits of selfishness make it very appealing. We like the satisfaction of getting what we want, when we want it. We get excited over the possibility of one more acquisition, one more moment of pleasure, one more time for things to go our way, a little more power, a lot more luxury, added income, bigger savings, better investments, and a more secure future. We treasure quick and sure ways to thwart or get even with people who try to use us, abuse us, cheat us, or beat us for their own selfish ends. We value being able to do what we please, when we please, as we please. And as young and old have figured out, self-centeredness makes a lot of things possible which are not possible when loving others as ourselves.

However, there is a truth about selfishness that is too often ignored. The benefits of selfishness are temporary while the damage and suffering caused by selfishness lasts a long time — and sometimes forever.

Every selfish act contains at least one seed of destruction. Each seed produces a two-headed monster. One head turns on us, adding to our woes. The second head turns on those affected by our selfishness, robbing them of what is rightfully theirs and adding to their woes.

We cannot act selfishly without creating more problems for ourselves. These added problems may not show up for some time, but they will show up and do their devastating work in our lives.

We cannot act selfishly without creating victims of our selfishness, without bringing unnecessary suffering into the lives of those affected by our selfishness. And sadly, the victims of our selfishness are most often those closest to us. Yet the circle is also much wider, for they can be found among those who are out of our sight — those we don’t know and those we will never know.

Dale is a top-notch car salesman making lots of money. He’s good! He’s so good he used his sales techniques to talk his wife into what he wanted for himself, or decided was best for her. At first he lived like a king, oblivious to the effect his methods were having on his wife. But one day, she rebelled. She was through with being manipulated and used. She was deeply wounded, bitter, and in a state of despair. The man she loved enough to marry turned out to be so selfish that he deliberately and continuously tried to manipulate and control her for his own benefit. Their marriage almost ended in divorce before he admitted to his selfishness and its destructive effect on his marriage. Without a doubt, he enjoyed the fruit of his selfishness for a time. But as he himself now admits, the benefits gained during his few years of pleasure could never offset the pain of a damaged relationship or the cost in time, effort, and money to rebuild that relationship to one of mutual love and trust.

In the long run, the benefits of selfishness are always out-weighed by the destructive consequences. And truly, the most costly consequence is the damage done to relationships. We may gain the whole world by selfishly pursuing the good of self, but we can never gain someone’s love. True love cannot be bought, demanded, finagled, or forced. It must be voluntarily, intentionally, and cheerfully given to be meaningful and satisfying. No mutually loving, mutually satisfying relationship can be one sided. It takes two people committed to the good of each other to give life and durability to a shared relationship of love and trust. A selfish focus on our own needs and wants destroys the possibility of sharing in a mutually loving, satisfying relationship.

When it came to things, Jason had almost everything a person could want. He had a huge home, three cars, a pretty wife, good-looking children, fine clothes, a high paying job, the latest in gadgetry and technology, a cottage, a boat, four snowmobiles, two motorcycles, and many other things that people wish for. He got a lot of gratification from his possessions, but he never felt satisfied. In fact, he was angry and depressed most of the time. Few people saw it because he hid it behind the facade of enjoying all his possessions and adult toys. Yet his anger and depression were like a monster on his back which he could not shake off.

Why was he so angry and depressed? Jason longed to be loved. Many claimed to be his friend, yet he shared no bonds of intimacy with anyone. He had no relationships of mutual love and trust — not even in his own home. Though surrounded by people, he felt alone and unloved. It was his own fault. He was so self-centered that he made the people in his life feel as if they were things to be used, not equals to be loved. It isn’t as if he had no concern for others. It is just that looking out for the good of others ordinarily took second place to looking out for his good and getting what he wanted. Put simply, Jason had no relationships of shared love and trust because he focused on taking, not giving. It is true, he enjoyed many pleasures and benefits as a result of his selfishness. However, in selfishly seeking his own good he lost out on the most valuable and satisfying thing of all — an intimate relationship of communion and companionship based on mutual love and trust where both parties know they are cherished and secure.

Why do we so eagerly sabotage our lives, damage valued relationships, hurt those dearest to us, and bring unnecessary suffering into the lives of people who have done nothing to us to deserve such misery? Distrustful self-centeredness. But why do we go on and on ignoring the obvious consequences of our selfishness? Because it gets us what we want when we want it! But we are ruining our own lives in the process! Don’t we care!?! Yes, but that concern is pushed aside by our selfish pursuit of the good life as defined by our expectations of what is best for us.
The Appeal of Immediate Gratification

Like metal to a magnet we are attracted to immediate gratification. We want what we want right now. The fact that the devil used the allurement of immediate gratification when he tempted Eve in the Garden, and Jesus in the wilderness, testifies to its powerful, universal appeal. (Note: , )

To better identify selfishly gained immediate gratification, consider its several common forms. It often looks like an expedient short-cut which significantly reduces the time it usually takes to get what we want. Examples of this would be the involvement in sexual activity before marriage instead of waiting until marriage, appeasing others to avoid conflict and maintain a semblance of peace, participating in questionable or outright dishonest business practices to gain a promotion, and using domineering or manipulative tactics to make others do what we want.

Another form of selfishly gained immediate gratification looks like the ideal quick-fix for a difficult problem. Examples of this would be divorce, returning evil for evil in an effort to stop evil, fraud or outright lying to protect ourselves from unwanted shame or loss, and blaming others as the cause of our misbehavior.

Sometimes selfishly gained immediate gratification takes the form of pleasure that numbs us to physical or emotional pain, bad feelings, disturbing memories, or fears. Examples of this would be excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages, taking mind-altering drugs, overeating, getting lost in a hobby, extravagant buying, and excessive television viewing.

Selfishly gained immediate gratification can look like passive or aggressive behavior that is used to shield us from the unwanted or unpleasant things of life. Examples of this on the passive side would be withdrawal (becoming reclusive), silence, pouting, secretiveness, appeasement, procrastination, and unexplained uncooperativeness. Examples of this on the aggressive side would be grumbling, screaming, threatening, abusive anger, blaming, and criticizing. We use these manipulative, controlling tactics to pressure people into giving us what we want, now.

Selfishly gained immediate gratification always looks like our only hope when it seems God is failing or has failed us in some way. When we are suffering because of unmet needs, burdened by the misery of physical afflictions, struggling against injustice, broken-hearted by the pain of rejection, feeling abused, afraid, discouraged, or longing to indulge ourselves with some pleasure or possession that has been out of our reach for awhile, we turn to selfishness because it is the most efficient, reliable, and quick way to solve our problems and get what we want.

Therefore, when we are convinced God is not providing the protection or provision we need, our desire for immediate gratification motivates us to eagerly and deliberately choose selfishness as the best means of dealing with our unmet needs and wants.

However, do not be seduced by the appeal of immediate gratification. It has one major flaw. It denies a reality that over-shadows its benefits. Selfish choices and behavior always give birth to some form of destructive consequences. And these destructive consequences make our life, and the lives of everyone affected by our selfishness worse than they were before we acted selfishly.

Pinocchio is the story of a puppet who was changed into a real live boy through a two-step process. He was given certain human qualities at first, but he had to remain a wooden boy until he could prove he was brave, unselfish, and able to tell right from wrong. Since he was not yet fully human and had no conscience, Jiminy Cricket was given that role in Pinocchio’s life.

The sly fox, Foulfellow, was Pinocchio’s tempter. Pinocchio’s first temptation took place on his way to school. Foulfellow stopped him and told Pinocchio that he should not waste his time in school. According to Foulfellow, the wisest thing Pinocchio could do would be to use his talents on the stage where there would be bright lights, the roar of applause, and fame — things which would certainly be more fun than school. Pinocchio was so enthralled with the thought of stardom that he went with Foulfellow, who sold him to the carnival man, Stromboli. That very night Pinocchio got his applause and stardom. But he also got locked in a cage after the show and threatened with being used as firewood if he didn’t continue to perform for Stromboli.

Now take notice. Pinocchio got the promised gratification he selfishly sought, but he also got problems he never would have had had he done the right thing and gone to school. The same thing happens to us when we selfishly choose immediate gratification over what we know is right.

Meanwhile, Foulfellow was making a deal with Barker, an evil man who enticed boys to Pleasure Island where he turned them into donkeys for use in his salt mines. Foulfellow agreed to help Barker find some boys for Pleasure Island. Pinocchio, who by now had been freed from the clutches of Stromboli, was the first one Foulfellow met. It wasn’t long before he was talking Pinocchio into a trip to Pleasure Island by telling him the island was filled with games, toys, and all the candy he could eat. Besides all that, there was no parent or boss there to tell Pinocchio what to do.

By nightfall, Pinocchio reached the island. It was like an enormous amusement park. Gorging himself on the pleasures that surrounded him, Pinocchio was unaware that he was turning into a donkey for use as slave labor in Barker’s salt mines. When Jiminy Cricket realized what was happening, he tried to warn Pinocchio of the impending disaster. Pinocchio would not listen. He refused to believe that Barker, the generous provider of all this fun, had evil motives. In his deluded condition he would not believe that bad could come from something that seemed so good. Yet Pinocchio was sprouting donkey’s ears and a donkey’s tail.

Once again, take notice. To get the pleasure he wanted, Pinocchio ignored his conscience. He overlooked the obvious discrepancies in what he was told about Pleasure Island (do anything you want without consequences). He refused to question the motives of its owner. Pinocchio was closing his eyes to the reality of his circumstances and his impending doom. Numbed by the immediate benefits of his choices, he was unaware he was becoming the last thing any of us would want to be — a donkey headed for slave labor in dark caverns under the earth. Yet do we not, too often, act just like Pinocchio?

Consider Foulfellow’s methods. He got Pinocchio to selfishly do what he knew was wrong by convincing him he could significantly and immediately improve his life. Foulfellow made himself believable by presenting himself as sincerely concerned about the happiness and well-being of Pinocchio. Yet when the truth was revealed, it was evident Foulfellow cared only about himself. He devised evil schemes to exploit and ultimately destroy Pinocchio so he, Foulfellow, could gratify his own selfish desires for profit and pleasure.

Satan, his co-workers, and all others who tempt us to sin, be they human or demonic in nature, are similar to the evil characters in the story about Pinocchio. They act as if they are sincerely interested in our well-being. They seem sympathetic when they come to us in our time of need or discouragement or anxiety or insecurity or discontent. Concern for our happiness seems to ooze from every pore. Their call to self-centeredness seems so rational and reasonable. They sound so sensible and kind when promising tremendous pleasures, huge profits, enviable possessions, popularity and acceptance, bulletproof security, or anything else our selfish heart desires if we will but do as they say. Yet they care nothing about our good.

They are completely self-centered — solely interested in using us to gratify their own desires. More than that, they are forever devising evil schemes that will enable them to use us, and indeed ruin us to get the happiness and fulfillment they seek. And sadly, to our shame and ruination we are so dazzled by the benefits of immediate gratification that we willingly and eagerly do what we know is wrong — even at the expense of those we claim to love the most.

Plainly put, one of sin’s most powerful attractions to our self-centeredness is immediate gratification. Getting what we want, now, is a part of us which is easily tempted to use sin as a means of gaining satisfaction. If we fail to see this, we will fail to see much of the sin that is in our lives. Don’t be blinded by the lie. The benefits of selfishly based immediate gratification are temporary while the damage and suffering last a long time — and in most cases, forever. Therefore, do not live contrary to reason. Do not do what is illogical and irrational. Do not think yourself wise in following the path of immediate gratification, for it always leads to destruction.
The Denial of Selfishness

Self-centered people rarely get up in the morning admitting they are willfully and intentionally selfish. They are not inclined to admit they routinely resort to the ways of selfishness to get what they want. In fact, they’ll get indignantly angry if asked to admit they cherish the benefits of selfishness more than the good of others, including those they claim to love. This kind of dishonesty is far too common. However, denying our selfishness does not make us less selfish, nor does it make the consequences less painful to those experiencing the effects of our selfishness.

How do we convince ourselves that we are not selfish when we are? Simply put, we think of ourselves as good people trying to do what is best for us in a world where too many others are trying to take advantage of us or neglecting us. Consider the following examples.

Many of us have hurts from the past. Most often, those nearest and dearest have hurt us the most. Because the pain cuts deep, we determine never to be hurt again by someone who holds a position of importance in our life (i.e., parents, spouse, sibling, child, close friend, teacher, co-worker, employer). To keep from getting hurt again, we make self-protection our primary goal in these important relationships. And, we keep important relationships shallow enough to end them, relatively pain free, at a moment’s notice should that be what it takes to keep from being hurt again. But this sets up a contradiction of reality. On the one hand, we want to be loved — intimately, deeply, vibrantly, freely. On the other hand, we want to protect ourselves from being hurt by the ones from whom we want love. So we insulate ourselves from the intimacy, depth, and vibrancy demanded for meaningful relationships, reducing a shared relationship to a primarily one-way relationship (they give, we take), which in time convinces the other party we don’t want a meaningful, mutually satisfying relationship with them. And whose good are we seeking when we do this? Only our own. Yet we do not see this as a form of selfishness. To us, it is good judgment. We are simply protecting ourselves from being hurt again in a world where being hurt by significant-others happens far too often. And so we deceive ourselves into believing our wall of self-protection is a wall of good intentions and not the wall of selfishness it really is.

Whether or not we have experienced poverty, most of us want nothing to do with it. All of us understand that money, power, and possessions keep poverty away. As a result, many of us devote a major portion of our time and energy to the acquisition of money, the accruement of power, and the accumulation of things. And whose good are we promoting and protecting when we do this? Our own? Yes! Our family’s? Probably. God’s? Marginally. Our neighbor’s or co-worker’s? Probably not. The poor and disenfranchised in our own community and nation, or third world countries? Never! In fact, we are helping to keep them poor and disenfranchised. Yet we do not see this as selfishness. We see it as building a secure future, caring for our families, fulfilling our dreams, and even enjoying God’s blessings which He especially bestows on those He favors. The fact that we resort to hoarding (stockpiling more than we need while people around us do without things they need), workaholism, unethical business practices, manipulation, and other selfish methods of getting what we want is overlooked. And so we deceive ourselves into believing our efforts at self-fulfillment are efforts of good intentions and not the efforts of selfishness they really are.

Because pleasure is exactly that — pleasurable — many of us treat the pursuit of pleasure as a serious hobby. We see ourselves as doing nothing more than reaching for those pleasures which are rightfully ours. Yet we ignore the fact that our pleasure-seeking pursuits are too often excessive, destructive to our health, financially costly beyond reason, and damaging to our most important relationships. Why? We want to believe that our interest in and pursuit of pleasure is within the boundaries of good intentions and personal rights.

Few of us are eager to be honest with ourselves. We would rather see ourselves as good people with good intentions. We want to be considerate, honest, moral, conscientious, loving, and kind. And we would be that way, all the time, if it weren’t for other people’s frustrating, unjust, hurtful, vile, or wicked behavior. However, noble motives and loving behavior may be important to us, but only so far as they do not hinder us from obtaining what we think is best for ourselves. The problem is not that our selfishness is so difficult to discover. The problem is that we do not want to see it.
How To Discover Selfishness in Yourself

At least ninety-nine percent of the time we have some purpose for choosing what we choose, and doing what we do. We can discover our purpose by looking at the patterns in our choices and behavior. To find the patterns, we must look for choices and behaviors that are repetitious — something we do again and again. As we examine the pattern, we can discover the purpose. As we understand the purpose, we are able to discern our true intent.

After several years of marriage, I memorized and meditated on , a passage about controlling the tongue. This prompted me to listen to the way I talked to my wife. Within three to four weeks it became obvious that I regularly used sarcasm and personal object lessons to communicate my frustrations, disappointments, and dislikes about her to her. (An object lesson is using a situation or a comment she made as a point of reference to redirect her attention to faults in herself that were of concern to me.) I wasn’t forceful, as in strong anger and loud voice. But I was persistent. As I examined the patterns of sarcasm and object lessons, I realized my purpose was to control her. I was persistently using sarcasm and object lessons to make her want to do things my way. I wasn’t screaming and threatening, but I was selfishly sinning against her just the same. I wanted my way, and I was willing to get it at her expense. The repetitiveness of my behavior revealed the patterns, the patterns revealed my purpose, and my purpose showed how self-centered I was.

But maybe you don’t have an aggressive nature like me. You may be more easy-going, like the passive type person who seems noble at first glance. He is always smoothing out the rough spots in relationships, guarding his words, and even putting conciliatory twists on the hostile words and deeds of others. He continuously works for peace and avoids conflict whenever possible. He hates arguments, strong words, put-downs, and angry outbursts. He appears to be a sensitive soul who doesn’t want to upset anyone.

Is he this way because he’s committed to the good of others? No way! He’s protecting himself from his greatest fear — rejection. And what makes him feel unloved and rejected? Being the brunt of, or in the midst of, criticism, harsh words, anger, and conflict. So he tries to make everyone accept him by continuously appeasing them. Does he appease them because he loves them and wants what is best for them? No! He appeases them in the hope all will be peaceful between him and them. This false sense of peace he interprets as love and acceptance. Do his methods promote intimacy and trust between himself and those he is in relationship with? No! It frustrates them because he won’t work through differences and resolve conflicts to make the relationship better. In fact, his methods ultimately convince them he doesn’t really love them. Could he see the truth about himself? Yes, if he would honestly examine the intent of his easy-going, passive approach to life.

Once we have discovered the purpose of our choices and behavior, we can move on to the consequences on ourselves and others. Consequences further expose our motives, revealing the selfishness or selflessness that is active within us.

Love does no wrong to anyone because of its concern for the good of everyone. Self-centeredness does wrong to anyone it must to advance its own cause. Therefore, the consequences of our choices and behavior, both immediate and future, both on ourselves and others, expose our true motives. When examining consequences, bear in mind that we are looking for the repetitive patterns, and not the exceptions. The repetitive patterns in our choices and behavior more accurately reveal our true motives.

Immediate consequences can be discovered by looking at the immediate gains and losses from what we are saying and/or doing. If we are the major beneficiary while others are forced to endure what they do not want to endure, our motive is selfish. If the good of everyone involved is the predominant result, our motive is love.

The long-term consequences can be discovered by asking what future loss or gain will likely be experienced as a result what we are saying and/or doing. If we are feeding bad habits, damaging relationships, unnecessarily hurting others, and dishonoring God in the public eye, we can be sure our motive is selfish. If we are nurturing current relationships, growing in godliness and maturity, serving the good of others, striving to repair damaged relationships, trying to build new relationships, and giving people cause to see God as good, we can presume our motive is love.

To confirm what we discover about ourselves we ought to ask those affected by our choices and behavior how we are affecting them. If they are not available, we should put ourselves in their place and ask how we would feel if we were being treated in the same way we are treating them.

Selfishness hides easy, and dies hard. If you want to find it, you must search for it. If you are going to look in the right places, you must examine who you really are, not who you would like to be. You must come to terms with what you really do, not what you intend to do. If you want help, and you’ll probably need it, ask those directly affected by your choices and behavior how they feel about your treatment of them. Listen carefully to what they say. Then, be honest with yourself about what you find. Finally, if you are going to defeat selfishness, you will have to work at it, hard, for the rest of your life.

In Summary

It seems clear that we are born with an over-powering inclination toward self-centeredness. However, by the time we become young adults our selfishness is no longer a naive, unintentional response to the needs and wants of life. It is a deliberate, voluntary, intentional act of the will. No one forces us to be selfish. It’s a choice, and we are responsible for making that choice.

Choosing selfishness over love is directly related to distrust of God’s intention to always do us good, and distrusting the reliability of His Word to tell us the best way to live. We solve our unbelief dilemma by making ourselves the most important person in our life, determining for ourselves what is best for us, and acting accordingly.

Selfishness gives life to all sin. For this reason, the very foundation of the Christian life is built on the denial of self. If we are to follow in Christ’s way, loving as he loves and obeying God as he obeys, we must first deny self. No one can love self supremely and love God supremely. No one can love self supremely and love his neighbor as himself. To love God supremely and our neighbor as ourself, we must deny self-centeredness and put away selfishness. (Note: ; )

The selfish person who calls himself a Christian does a lot of damage to Christianity and the reputation of God. His hypocrisy makes God look bad in the eyes of unbelievers. His selfishness makes Christianity look bad in the eyes of those who endure unnecessary suffering as a consequence of his selfishness. He does great harm by setting an example that influences other would-be Christians and weaker Christians to follow in his footsteps. He does even greater harm by living and presenting a type of religion that leads people to believe they can enjoy the benefits of God’s salvation without forfeiting the benefits of selfishness and sin. He destroys the very essence of Christianity by promoting the importance of knowing God while evading the need to wholeheartedly live for God. He renders meaningless the language of Christianity by proclaiming to believe it in principle while contradicting it in practice. (Note: ; ; )

Are you convinced that selfishness and sin are inseparable? Are you convinced that selfishness brings destruction into your life and unnecessary suffering into the lives of all who are affected by your selfish choices and behavior? Do you know that God, through His Word and by His power, will teach you, strengthen you, and enable you to live a love-controlled life? If you have not made the deliberate choice to forsake selfishness, I urge you to do it now. Then, take the necessary steps to give life to your choice.

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15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates.”

27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.

7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about 3,000 men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. (ESV)

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (ESV)

4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (ESV)

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (ESV)

25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (ESV)

24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (ESV)

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:20-21

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (ESV)

58:1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (ESV)

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