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Bible verses about Self Interest
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:18

Perhaps verse 18 could be rephrased as, "It is not good that man be independent." Our God establishes principles and patterns in His Word from which we can extract wisdom, the practical application of truth. Some of the most basic and fundamental patterns for His purpose are established very early in Genesis.

What is He showing here? That, in relation to God's purpose, the most and the best will not be produced in us if we are alone. If we are independent, we remove ourselves from the circumstances that will produce the most toward His purpose. In this specific context, God is not commanding everyone to marry, but He is clearly showing that marriage is better than remaining single.

Everyone understands from his own experiences that the more people who comprise a unit or community, the greater the number and intensity of problems. This occurs largely because our carnality drives us to compete rather than cooperate. Sometimes a person desires so strongly to be independent of this kind of community relationship that he separates himself in order to be completely free from the suspicions, distrust, offenses, and other hardships that occur within a group. To put it another way, it is very similar to a soldier running away from the battlefield to protect himself.

In its rawest form, it is selfishness and self-interest. It can be a self-serving avoidance of being useful, of contributing steadfast strength and encouragement, of being a right example to others or of being found wrong and corrected. If nothing else, we are detaching ourselves from the unit to which God intends we show allegiance and give service.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Numbers 22:18

God continuously warns Balaam, "Do not go beyond what I tell you to do," and every time, Balaam tries to anyway. He fights God at every turn because He wants his own way. He wants the gold, the honor, and the reputation he would have by cursing Israel (who had defeated mighty Egypt and most of the nations they came in contact with). The true God was the "game in town," and if Balaam beat Him, he would be on the top of the pile. This is Balaam's plan; he was "working his magic," trying to move himself into first position among diviners.

This brings out his major flaw, one that many in the world also have. He believed that the end justifies the means. He was willing to set aside principle (if he had any) to achieve his goals. He functioned by self-interest rather than by belief or standards. His standard was "anything that is good for Balaam," which is self-righteousness and self-interest. These were the principles by which he felt he could live a successful life. He did not base them on anything godly or even ethical but strictly on human reason.

He was willing to do anything to get his way. By putting together different parts of the Bible on him, Balaam comes out smelling like manure, not roses.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Numbers 22:28-30

It is incredible that Balaam even replies to the donkey. If an animal spoke to one of us, would we respond? Perhaps he thought, "Well, I've talked to her enough. She was bound to answer me sometime." This is obviously a miracle—there is only one other place in the Bible (Genesis 3, the serpent to Eve) where an animal speaks—yet Balaam acts as if it happens to him every day! The donkey asks him questions, and he answers!

Balaam is totally, spiritually out of it. He has no thought for God or for spiritual things. He is so self-possessed, so full of self-interest that he cannot think beyond the end of his nose! All he is thinking about is, "What am I going to do when I get to Balak? He's going to pile all this money on me! How am I going to set up the sacrifices? What am I going to do? How am I going to say this? I know God will let me do it because I'm just a wonderful negotiator, and that's just the way it is. All the other gods have done exactly as I've bargained, so I think. . . ." As he travels, he talks to himself like this, thinking only about the wonderful job and the wealth he has ahead of him. He is heedless to anything else.

When these amazing things happen, they fail to faze him. They fail to make him wonder what is going on. He does not even ask why the donkey was treating him in a way she had never had before. She was totally out of character! She speaks, and he answers! It illustrates the depth of his spiritual blindness. He could not see God if He had bit him!

In today's lingo, we would call Balaam totally materialistic. Everything was based on what he could see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. He could not understand beyond that.

He was involved in spiritism, with augury, enchanting, and such, but there is nothing spiritual about him. He had no depth. And this made him thoroughly evil. He bore a nice façade that made him look spiritual, but in reality, there was nothing there. The donkey was more truly spiritual than he was!

He may have had some spiritual knowledge, but it did not work in him properly because he never put it into practice. He may have known about Israel, about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, perhaps even of some of God's instructions to Israel. He certainly knew God was, in all His power and sovereignty, working for them. But none of this knowledge that he may have had did him any good. He even talked to God, and God talked back to him! God was doing all these things in his life, and he was thoroughly blind to all of it.

The incredible thing here is that Balaam acted as if these things happened to him every day. But they did not! These were once-in-a-lifetime events, but he was so self-centered that he shrugged them off, ignoring them as if they did not matter. Here was the great sovereign God saying, "Wake up, Balaam! I'm here! Can't you see Me? Can't you see Me working?" But Balaam is blind to the true reality of Him. The "seer" can see nothing because he is so stuck on the here and now, on what he has in his hand and in his pocket.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Amos 1:9-10

God's judgment on Tyre (verses 9-10) is similar to that of Philistia. As greedy for gain as the people of Gaza, the Tyrians breached an agreement between Solomon and Hiram to secure it. When one enters into an agreement with another and does not follow through with its terms, to God it is the same as breaking one's word to a brother. God allows one to break a covenant only if keeping it will cause further sin. The pledged word of Tyre, however, was always negotiable, depending on her self-interest.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:9-11

In Amos 3:9-10, the prophet is told to proclaim the tumults, oppression, violence, and robbery in the nation. The man on the street was not too disturbed at the lack of law and order. He did not seem to realize that this cancerous immorality plaguing the country from within would result in her being crushed and destroyed from without.

However, when the time came to defend Israel from foreign invasion, Israel would have no strength (verse 11). God says, "They have blown the trumpet and made everyone ready, but no one goes to battle" (Ezekiel 7:14). Because the people were so preoccupied with their own self-interests, they did not respond to the external threat of invasion. As a result, the nation fell easily.

In our own generation, we have seen that our adversaries could not conquer us on the battlefield when our general level of morality was high. But as our moral fiber weakened between 1950 and today, they began to destroy us in the business world. Our foes in World War II, in becoming our allies during the Cold War, learned our ways and now rival or outpace us in most economic categories—not only in the area of heavy industry, but in highly technological matters as well.

As our economic power is being sapped by moral cancer, our fighting spirit is being drained too. We are no longer able to present a united front on any matter. In addition, as the United States takes on the role of sole superpower, as our troops are used to enforce United Nations policies, our military strength is exploited and thinned. In our moral and social malaise, we find rousing ourselves to action as a nation gets harder and harder to do. Our allies know we are a weak branch to lean on.

And behind all this is God, who sees our corruption and warns us that the time is near.

"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'An adversary shall be all around the land; he shall sap your strength from you, and your palaces shall be plundered'" (Amos 3:11). "Therefore" connects the preceding verses with a conclusion or result. Tumult, oppression, violence, and robbery beget weakness and destruction. Sin is inherently self-destructive. It holds out such promise of pleasure and fulfillment, but contains within it the seeds of destruction. Whatever is sown is reaped.

Why does Amos depict Israel as a powerless nation while she was at the height of her economic, political, and military power? The nation's religion was a sham! Morality and righteousness make a nation strong, but immorality and unrighteousness will always bring it to ruin (Proverbs 14:34). Where religion is powerless, government, business, and community become ineffective because their moral undergirding is gone.

"'For they do not know to do right,' says the Lord" (Amos 3:10). Unable to tell the difference between good and evil, Israelites finally reached the point where they called evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Not only is this in regard to spiritual truths but also to the marketplace. While they no doubt complained about the violence, they could not see that their own selfish ambitions actually produced the violence on the streets.

Evidently, even the religious people never made the connection between the moral and social breakdown in the nation and their own selfish ambitions. They may have been embezzling from their company or overcharging their customers, but they went to church every week! That is why God says He will destroy the religious system too (Amos 3:14).

Cold, calloused, indifferent, the common Israelite just did not care about the other guy. "So what if he suffers while I enrich myself—that's life in the big city, baby!" Whether politician or businessman or religious person, all Israelites, it seems, looked at life this way. It was a view of life almost totally devoid of a social conscience. Their lifestyle glorified amorality. But, most condemning of all, it was a lifestyle diametrically opposite to that revealed by God through Moses.

We, too, need to be careful of this attitude in our own self-absorbed culture. The media even calls the "baby boom" generation the "Me Generation," and a popular magazine found in supermarket checkout lines is boldly titled Self.

Notice the repetition of "palaces" and "houses" in verses 9-11 and 15. God instructs Amos to tell the kings of foreign nations (verse 9) about the Israelites' stockpiling "violence and robbery in their palaces" against themselves (verse 10). To paraphrase, He says, "Look, My people have weakened themselves through sin! They are ripe for destruction!" God empowers the heathen, so they, as His battle-ax, will punish His people. His ultimate aim, of course, is to bring them to repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 16:24-25

Everybody has a natural inclination to avoid suffering and pain, and this is not necessarily wrong. There is a drive within all of us to preserve our lives and to extend them. Self-preservation, it is said, is the first law of the universe, and so we desire to ensure that we do not suffer any pain.

On the other hand, Jesus seems to be counseling us that, somehow, this drive for self-preservation, for self-satisfaction, for comfort, has to be be pushed from the forefront of our lives and into a secondary place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

Matthew 16:24-25

Like the Messiah, we must deny ourselves.

Put Satan into this picture. What is he going to do to us? Through disinformation and affecting our attitudes, he will lead us toward self-satisfaction, not self-denial, because self-satisfaction is the essence of sin. When we sin, we bring upon ourselves the death penalty.

To teach the right lesson, Jesus immediately taught—to counteract what Satan was subtly teaching through Peter—that the way to the Kingdom of God is through self-denial, not self-satisfaction. Satan will try to persuade us not to deny ourselves but to fulfill ourselves at the expense of others.

Another thing this can teach us is that great temptations can come through well-meaning friends. Peter meant well. It must have shocked him right out of his sandals when Jesus turned and said, "Get behind Me, Satan!" right in Peter's face. Jesus was probably not angry, just urgent, so that Peter would grasp what had happened.

Surely, God would not want us to face this kind of a trial, would He? Yes, it could happen if the temptation comes through well-meaning people. We are particularly vulnerable when we can be led to believe that we are not being treated as we deserve.

Satan used this major ploy against Adam and Eve: "Oh, has God said so? He's withholding from you." Such was his implication. "Why, if you do things the way you want, you can have much more. You can be god." We always want more; it is part of human nature.

Unfortunately, mankind keeps making things worse by making the same general mistakes over and over again in each generation. It will not end until each individual decides he will not do it regardless of the cost to himself. This is denying oneself. Some things in life are beyond our control, and we must leave them to God to solve.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

Acts 5:1-5

These two church members apparently did not take Satan into consideration. They listened to a lie and were divided, first, from God's church and then from life itself. What did Satan do? He moved them toward self-satisfaction to the point (the actual sin) that they lied to take credit for a greater sacrifice than they actually made.

The sad part of this is that no one asked them to donate the entire sale price of the piece of land. What happened was they committed themselves to it and then undoubtedly began to feel put on. "Hey, Sapphira, that's too much money." Maybe they began to think, "We didn't expect we'd get so much money from the sale of this, and it is too much to donate." They began to think, undoubtedly, of other uses that they could put the money to. "We could buy new clothes. We could improve the house. We could buy another piece of land as an investment and make even more from it."

They had apparently already told those who were in charge of the collection that they would contribute the entire amount of the sale, and when the time came to give the contribution, they gave only a part of it but let on as if it was the entire sale price. They kept the difference for themselves.

Who led them to dare to lie? Satan has a modus operandi. He will always move us in the direction of self-satisfaction at the expense of obedience to God, service to God, or service to others, so that we elevate ourselves over the others.

Is that not what Satan did originally? In his own mind, his vanity elevated him higher than the position God had given to him, and it then began to work on his mind so that he had to do something about it. This process repeats itself over and over again.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

Galatians 6:1

We should have a meek attitude to all others regardless of our relationship with them. Even when someone is antagonistic, meek correction and teaching will assist God in leading them to repentance. For prautes, the NKJV uses "gentleness" in Galatians and "humility" in II Timothy and Titus. Both of these are qualities of meekness. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It is evenness of mind—neither elated nor cast down—because a truly meek person is not occupied with self at all.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Ephesians 5:5

Covetousness is a strong desire for and a seeking after material things that become objects of our worship if we hold them as more important than God. Someone else's house or car can be an idol if we covet them. This attitude is identified with idolatry because it replaces God with self-interest and visible things.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

These verses give us a concise but graphic overview of powerful and evil attitudes driving this world toward the brink of annihilation. We have all been victims to some degree of these ungodly attitudes. We cannot escape being affected by them, and even after conversion, it is difficult to fend them off. This overriding way of life has an invasive way of forcing one to concentrate attention on self-satisfaction. It leads one to believe that life, government, employer, or society owes him a living. A strong sense of obligation to serve others, especially freely given service, and loyalty are major victims of its onslaught because it produces the attitude that one is owed rather than that one owes.

Notice how many of the descriptors given in these verses directly relate to focusing on the self. Self-satisfaction is the foundation, the launching pad, and driving force that motivates sin. It is sin's very essence. We should not be deceived into thinking that God does not want us to have any satisfaction in life, but we should rather understand that human nature, aided by Satan, easily allows conduct to get out of control and finds satisfaction beyond the bounds of righteous standards. God wants satisfaction to be produced differently in us.

Sex is an area in which we can see this principle quite easily. God created and pronounced it very good as He stopped His work during Creation week. The Bible shows it is to be used for reproduction and binding a marriage ever more closely in an intimate, loving, pleasurable, and satisfying way as each partner gives and serves the other. God intends it for use within marriage only.

However, as we can see by observing the world, if a person lacks a strong sense of obligation to his mate or to God due to taking wedding vows, to God's laws, or to his personal relationship with Christ, its use can get out of control when one seeks only to please himself. Self-satisfaction then becomes a destroyer of marriage and family life. The stability of the community is disturbed, and above all, one's relationship with God can be shattered by means of something He intended for our good. A deep sense of obligation motivates us toward the vital virtue of faithfulness.

The Bible uses several metaphors to teach the result of human nature's perverse longing for self-satisfaction. Paul notes in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Sin indebts us to death to an amount that, if we paid it, cuts off all hope of eternal life. Proverbs 22:7 adds important understanding to the spiritual principle involved here: "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." Sin put us in debt to the one we obeyed in sinning. Once we sin, we are living on borrowed time, and we, the borrowers, the debtors, lose our independence. In terms of sin, we owe our lives to someone else. A sinner is no longer his own man!

The idea of "servant" becomes clearer when we understand it as "slave." Slavery is another metaphor for what self-satisfaction produces. Sin puts us in bondage to the cruelest taskmaster in the universe, Satan, the one who generates this host of self-centered attitudes. We are completely unable to break free from this bondage without supernatural help, as Hebrews 2:14-15 says:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

2 Peter 2:10

The Greek word Peter uses literally means "self-pleasing." It denotes the person who, dominated by self-interest and inconsiderate of others, arrogantly asserts his own will. The self-willed person so overvalues any decision he makes that he cannot be dissuaded.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 4): Self-Will


 

 




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