Monday, March 12, 2012

Jesus And Self-Interest


I don’t think that Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, ever acted from self-interest. I’m willing to be proved wrong, but I can’t think of an instance where Jesus did anything to enhance his social status, increase his personal power, or in anyway enrich himself. Arguably, even those moments when Jesus does something to preserve his own life, as when he walks away from the lynch mob in Luke 4:29-30, it is only so that he can go on to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him there.

“However, it’s necessary for me to travel today, tomorrow, and the next day because it’s impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33 CEB)

By the same token, I can’t think of an instance where Jesus told his followers to act in their own self-interest. Instead he taught the disciples that they must take up crosses, that only by losing one’s life does one gain life, that following him meant giving away all that one had. These are words to convict the heart of any Christian.

Much of what is preached as gospel, at least in a North American Protestant context, has to do with avoiding hell and achieving heaven. It’s a pain and pleasure principle writ large into eternity. Self-denial, when it is proclaimed at all, is for the sake of a greater bliss in the next life. Much of what is preached as gospel, at least in our individualistic Western culture, is about “me and Jesus.” It’s about self-interest.

And I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I don’t think Jesus ever acted from self-interest, or told his followers to do so.

Illustrating this post is Hieronymous Bosch's painting of Jesus carrying the cross.


  1. Well...

    Jesus came to earth and gave His life out of love for us - in a very deep and powerful way, that would be out of self-interest, saving the ones dear to Him.

    He died to give us life - doesn't He want us to joyfully accept it? Isn't that self-interest?

    It is one of those paradoxes, it seems to me. Jesus gave His life to make the fullness of life possible - both ours AND His. He gave His life so He could spend eternity with those He loves.

    We deny ourselves, give our lives to Jesus - He gives us life abundantly.

    To save our lives we must lose them.

    It seems God's way is that it is our best self-interest to put the interest of others ahead of our own.

  2. On further reflection...

    It's not that self-ineterest is wrong, it is the way we go about it.

    The world's way is to put ourselves first, and take all that we can get.

    God's way is to put the one loved first - and give all that we can give.

    God's way leads to life - and the fulness of life - definitely in our self-interest!

    The world's way... leads to the mess we are in now... definitely NOT in our self-interest!

    1. "Further reflection..."

      Those words alone have made everything I've written in this blog worthwhile. I think that inspiring "further reflection" may be the highest goal I could attain to.

      You've done something interesting here. You have defined altruism as self-interest. I like that.

      One of the blogs that often leads me to "further reflection" is Dr. James McGrath's "Exploring Our Matrix." By what I can only assume is a coincidence, Dr. McGrath blogged about self-interest and altruism today.

  3. Self Interest in the sense of what we as humans think is right, certainly not. But self interest in the plan of our heavenly Father, most certainly so, over and over, and even long before Jesus was born. Particularly those who where young, esteemed and coveted. Daniel comes to mind, far from Jesus in deeds, but one who proved by setting aside what you think you want, you get not only what you need, but much much more, even salvation from the lions. We are taught to let go of what we think we need, and once we Love God and the Word of Jesus with all our heart, so that we learn what it is we always desired. In this way only did Jesus teach of self interest. The true plan of God, for what God desires MOST of us, we will DESIRE MOST with all our being once we open up to HIM and HIS plan for us. In his plan for us and His all knowing, he knows what we desire most, but we will appreciate most only when we discover it on our own. And often as Children of God, we are beset upon with the most ferocity, by Satan's hosts, just as we draw near, to remind us of what seems nice or good, but is the OPPOSITE of God's will. God believes in us, it is time we start believing in ourselves, and set aside what we THINK we want, and allow for God to reveal in Grace and Infinite wisdom what it is we truly want. I leave you with this. God offered King Solomon anything he could possibly desire. This humble King fell to his knees, and asked for the Wisdom to serve God's will, lead God's people, and know at all times the WILL of God in his Wisdom. It was in serving GOD COMPLETELY, and WILLFULLY, and HUMBLY, that he was awarded anything this world had to offer and then more. It is a lesson now that in accepting Jesus, into our hearts, and God's will into our lives, this will be the only way to serve ourselves truly in those things we truly desire. Amen.