Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is Salvation Selfish?

One of the major Biblical characterizations of humanity in its natural, default state is that we are selfish. "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." [2 Tim 3:2] This is in radical contrast to the two great commandments highlighted by Jesus - love God and love your neighbour. [Matt 22:37-40] Not only Jesus' teaching, but also his life, was characterised by selflessness. He took a towel and washed his disciples' feet. He always looked after other people's needs and concerns, [Phil 2:4-5] giving his life as a sacrifice for his enemies. [Ro 5:10]

So, here's a question. To obtain salvation (by grace alone through faith alone) is to accept eternal life from God. Isn't this the ultimate act of instinctive self-preservation? Surely this act is motivated by selfishness? I agree in one sense - becoming saved is the last selfish act we perform, since once we are Christians, our lives should become living sacrifices - given over in service to God and others.

But actually, we really need to define what we mean by selfishness. To take what we need to survive is only selfish if we are depriving others: Hence we breathe, but there's enough air to go around so that's not selfish. On the other hand, we in western society consume more than our fair share of world food, etc - perhaps this is selfishness?

Returning to the topic of salvation - when we accept what God gives us, are we preventing anyone else from getting it? The answer is a resounding no! God's gift is infinite - the world is His scope. In fact, when we become Christians, we might be starting a spiritual chain reaction, resulting in other people being saved. The apostle Paul is a good example of this. So no - while salvation may be self-preservation, it's not selfishness.


Anonymous said...

I do not agree with you definition of selfish and therefore your contention that salvation is not motivated by selfishness.

I would go a step further and suggest that a lot of 'selfless christian acts' are at least a little bit selfish too.

Unsavory Character said...

You have helped me with an answer I was looking for. So, I will share with you my response to another blog commentor who claimed salvation was selfish.

The kingdom of God is like unto a man who sits at a banquet table with an infinite amount of food. Others sitting next to him have tasted and have been filled. These say unto him, "Come and eat. There is room for all." Still others stand a good distance away from the table averting their eyes from it saying, "There is no food and there is no table. We can't have any food and neither can you." Which one of these is selfish? Is it the man who sits at the dinner table considering his need for fulfillment? Are the fellow banqueters selfish when they invite this man to eat? Or are those selfish who deny sustenance to anyone and avert their eyes from the table?

jeremy said...

Dear unsavory,

I agree with you that blessing for ourselves often flows from considering the needs of others - indeed, this is a fundamental principle of God's grace. He is glorified by our acceptance of His forgiveness.