The Grave Dangers of the Sin of Selfishness

The God who created us said: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” What happens when we worship “other gods”? What happens when we become our own idol? When we do not worship the One True God, our actions bring death.

The Grave Dangers of the Sin of Selfishness

In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul dealt with a variety of problems which issued primarily from human selfishness. Paul attacked this root cause, which he also labeled “worldliness”, from various angles. He admonished the Church of God in Corinth about their jealousy and divisions, tolerating adultery and fornication in their midst, suing each other, provoking fellow believers to fall into idolatry, abusing the Lord’s Supper, misusing the spiritual gifts, and the like.

These deviations were springing from self-centeredness, or egotism, or worldliness of the believers - being like the ordinary people of the world, whose character was patterned after the ugly standard of their spiritual father the Devil. (John 8:41,44; Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 John 2:16)

Struggling to weed out selfishness from the church, Paul gave the Corinthians a series of strong warnings by pointing to what happened to God’s people after they

left Egypt. (1 Corinthians 10:1-12) The most serious of the warnings is not always noticed or understood, perhaps because it is not that prominent. In this article I will expose the subtle killer, the killer that claimed the most victims in the wilderness.

In the wilderness, having left Egypt behind, the Israelites enjoyed the direct visible presence of God; they witnessed some unrivaled miracles; and they were supplied with spiritual food and drink. They were under the leadership of Moses, a savior and mediator of a new covenant.

Yet, in the darkest corners of their souls selfishness lingered. It would repeatedly break out of control at times of crisis, putting them to death by the hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands. Paul’s disturbing point was that: “What happened to them, might happen to you!”

It is not enough to leave Egypt, which represents the world, to be baptized, to be counted among the people of God, or to experience some miracles. It is not even enough to have the proper spiritual diet! Believing God, following Christ, and doing God’s will must become your daily practice.

If you hold on to the “I will” mindset - for which the Devil was thrown down from Heaven (Isaiah 14:13-14) to become the ruler of the Kingdom of the Air and the author of the wicked ways of this world (Ephesians 2:2) - you will most probably be overpowered by one sin or another.

Which sins rode over the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness? Which sins did Paul name explicitly? (And try to take notice of a particular sin, which he did not include in the list.) He named setting their hearts on evil things, idolatry, adultery, fornication, testing the Lord and grumbling. (1 Corinthians 10:6-10)

Can the same sins drag us down to Hell? Absolutely! A little earlier the Holy Spirit would write through the Apostle Paul and solemnly declare: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9)

The wicked remain wicked because they love pleasure, or themselves, rather than God. They love themselves too much not to indulge themselves in those pleasures that are forbidden by God. They loved themselves more than other people, to the point that they got themselves involved in questionable practices, which provoked the weaker saints to fall into sin. (1 Corinthians 8:10-12)

Selfishness does destroy people!

Yet, Paul left the list of mortal sins committed in the wilderness incomplete! The greatest killer was left out of the list.

Let us recall the death toll of the sins expressly mentioned. Idolatry cost about 3,000 lives (Exodus 32:28) plus an unspecified number of people who died later because of a plague. (Exodus 32:35) Adultery and fornication took away a breathtaking 23,000 lives. (1 Corinthians 10:8) Many, but obviously less than in the previous two cases, were killed by snakes for testing the Lord. (Numbers 21:6) Some were felled by the destroyer for grumbling. (1 Corinthians 10:10)

We must also include the rebellion against the spiritual authority of Moses and Aaron inspired by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (A rebellion that transported the three ringleaders with most of their house hold members alive into the grave.) (Numbers 16:23-33) Fire came from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were unrighteously offering up incense (Numbers 16:35) and exterminated 14,700 grumblers the next day. (Numbers 16:49)

Still, these death toll rates were by no means the highest known during the wanderings in the wilderness. The greatest number of them, 603,550 males (this number does not include the Levites) (Numbers 1:46; 2:32), perished for their refusal to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:1-35)

Why did Paul not plainly name this atrocious sin? My guess is that the Corinthians were so familiar with the story and its results that naming it was not necessary.

Let us reason. Why did they all die? Why did all the males of the older generation, save Joshua and Caleb, sprinkle the wilderness with their bones? They fell, because they were afraid of the strong nations of the Promised Land, their fortified cities and their giants. They were afraid for their lives. They were not at all sure that God meant them good. At the bottom of their refusal to follow God fearlessly was their lack of knowing God! (Psalm 95:10-11) They did not know God and therefore they clung to their own selfish desires as flies do to sticky fly trap tape.

Selfishness does ruin people!

It destroys individuals and some of those that they are able to influence around them. Left alone to grow and flourish, selfishness can even result in having the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven shut before your face.

Paul brought this Old Testament story up as a “wake-up call” for the body of believers soiled with selfishness. Still, his goal was not only to present a negative example unto them. He also sought to inspire them by the positive examples of Joshua and Caleb, who did enter the Land, and played out their roles in God’s master plan. They had learned that there was no better place in life than to be in the center of God’s will.

These events should wake us up, so that we will re-evaluate our ways. We must strive ever more earnestly to know our God, our Creator and His plans for our lives; and, then to follow Him obediently wherever He leads us.

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